Will Roland-Garros provide the chance for Carlos Alcaraz to return to world number one?
In September 2022, after becoming the youngest Grand Slam winner since compatriot Rafael Nadal at the 2005 French Open, 19-year-old Spanish sensation Carlos Alcaraz tasted the summit of the men’s world rankings following his 2022 US Open triumph. Although Novak Djokovic has since reclaimed top spot after his Australian Open win in January, Alcaraz has another great opportunity for Grand Slam silverware in May’s French Open at Roland-Garros.
Alcaraz reached the quarter finals at last year’s French Open and the clay is arguably the Spaniard’s most comfortable surface. This explains why most of the leading sportsbooks think it will be coinflip between Djokovic and Alcaraz in June.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the pair priced at +150 and +175 respectively in their futures market. US-based tennis fans should note that this operator is increasing its footprint stateside in licensed sports betting, having originally started out in daily fantasy sports. Since then, DraftKings has gone live in 18 US states and, according to this review of the DraftKings Sportsbook free bets, it’s newly live in Massachusetts too.
With the match predicted to be a close and even affair, let’s examine Alcaraz’s chances of returning to the world number one ranking.
Could we see an all-Spanish French Open 2023 battle?
Australian tennis legend Paul McNamee believes that Alcaraz’ biggest challenger at Roland-Garros will be the “king of clay” himself, Rafael Nadal. The 36-year-old has won 14 of his 22 Grand Slam titles at the French Open, such has been his dominance on clay in the last two decades. It’s a fair assumption when you consider Nadal’s history at Roland-Garros, but this is a man who is getting closer to retirement by the day, if reports describing him as ‘fragile’ are to be believed.
It would also be remiss to discount Djokovic, who has won two Grand Slams at Roland-Garros, his most recent coming in 2021. The Serbian has also showed tremendous mental fortitude in recent months, such as was the case when he played through the pain barrier with a hamstring injury to land his tenth Australian Open title. Djokovic may also be entering the twilight of his career.
With Nadal and Djokovic both potentially tiring, it could be an opportunity for a young pup like Alcaraz to make his mark.
How does Alcaraz’s game match up with the greats?
After missing the Australian Open with a leg injury, the French Open will be Alcaraz’s first Grand Slam of the season. He’s now fit again and, with Roland-Garros on the horizon, is building up his court time.
Alcaraz certainly has the game for clay and has what it takes to win the wars of attrition that are five-set matches on this surface. Alcaraz is emotionally stable on court, which is a major quality at this tournament, and his stamina has not as yet been called into question. Combine this with dependable ground strokes and a hugely deceptive drop shot and this Spanish starlet has all the tools in his arsenal to make clay court tennis an art form once again.
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