With Rafael Nadal deciding to withdraw from the upcoming French Open, which gets underway next Sunday (May 28), Novak Djokovic will have a great opportunity to win a record 23rd Grand Slam title in Paris.
The 36-year-old Serb, who celebrated his birthday last Monday (May 22), has not been in great form in the lead-up to the tournament. He got knocked out cheaply in Monte Carlo and Rome but remains one of the most formidable opponents one could have in the best-of-five format.
Nadal denied Djokovic a number of French Open titles in the past
Djokovic has often had deep runs at the French Open, but Nadal often stood between him and the ultimate glory. Nadal leads their head-to-head at Roland Garros 8-2. Their latest encounter in the tournament happened last year, with Nadal prevailing in four sets in a night match.
Nadal's absence will boost Djokovic's confidence ahead of the tournament. However, he might have to contend with Nadal’s compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, the current World No. 1, who has won a couple of Masters 1000 tournaments this year already.
For all the exploits in his brief career, the 20-year-old Alcaraz has not yet faced the Serb at a Grand Slam. He might have to prove his mettle by getting the better of the Serb this year at Roland Garros.
Djokovic will keep relying on his clinical approach to the game
The Serb is still one of the fittest players around, but his court-coverage has suffered a bit of late. However, he has made that up with the recent improvement in his serve, which has helped him improve his tally of Wimbledon titles.
However, the serve is less of a weapon on clay, which means that the Serb will have to grind out most of the points at the French Open. His forehand has consisted of a lot of venom in recent tournaments, which is always a good sign.
It should be very difficult for any player to win three sets against the Serb on any surface, as the importance of the occasion usually propels the Serb to play better. Should he be able to win his 23rd Major in Paris, he will definitely have his name up for the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) debate.