Tennis Roland Garros: Nadal and Djokovic, favorites under pressure

“This court has something that makes it play 30% better”: after watching on the Central the training of Rafael Nadal, the man with 13 titles on Parisian clay, the world N.3 Alexander Zverev n did not hide his admiration. “Suddenly, his forehand goes 30 km/h faster, he’s lighter on his legs…”, adds the German.

The Spaniard, who will celebrate his 36th birthday on June 3, the day of the semi-finals, however makes no secret of the sword of Damocles which threatens him: the pain in his left foot which no longer leaves him can become unbearable at any time.

“The question is whether his intensity will allow me to play with real chances,” Nadal himself explained.

He believes that if he is spared the pain and is able to play well, “history shows that (his) chances of winning at Roland-Garros are higher than in Australia”. In Melbourne, in the absence of Djokovic, he pushed the record for Grand Slam titles to 21 in January. He could therefore move two steps ahead of Djokovic and Federer by winning a 22nd Major on June 5.

Djokovic “believes in his abilities”

The Serbian, defending champion in Paris, said that “when we talk about the favorites at Roland-Garros, we can’t help but put Nadal at the top of the list”.

But once he said that, and cited the phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz as another of the suitors, Djokovic is not forgotten.

“I believe in my abilities (…) to fight for one of the most prestigious trophies in tennis. And even more as defending champion,” he said two days before the start of the tournament where he won two of his twenty Majors.

After a blank start to the season for refusing to get vaccinated against covid, Nole has gained momentum on clay. “It took me two tournaments to feel that I was really getting closer to the level I was aiming for and that I reached in Rome where I won the tournament without losing a set,” he warned.

Another, even more dazzling rise to power is that of Alcaraz who, at 19, has the game, the physique and the will to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires. But will he have the mind?

Without dwelling on Nadal, whose Major record he dreams of equaling by winning for the third time in his rival’s favorite tournament, Djokovic underlined the advantage that experience gives him over the other contenders.

Tornado Swiatek wants to keep its crown

“With all due respect to the players (…) I believe in my chances because I’ve done it before and I know what it takes,” he noted.

An advantage he will also have over Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas whose dream he shattered last year by beating him in the final after being down two sets to nil.

Fate wanted things to start settling fairly early on since Djokovic, Nadal, Alcaraz and Zverev are all in the top half of the table, with a Djokovic-Nadal expected from the quarter-finals. Tsitsipas will be favorite for the final ticket at the bottom of the table.

In the women’s table, for the first time in a long time, a favorite stands out: the Polish Iga Swiatek, surprise winner in 2020 but who presents herself this year, at 20, in world N.1 and with a series of 28 games won in a row with titles in Doha, Indian Wells, Miami, Stuttgart and Rome.

“I’m aware that this streak may end soon and I don’t want to be too disappointed when it does. So I will take the matches one after the other as I have done in previous tournaments,” she commented.

In the event of victory, she would become the first player crowned a second time at Roland-Garros since Serena Williams won her 3rd title there in 2015.

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