Djokovic’s Nadal comment says it all as Serb wary of three French Open rivals

Novak Djokovic made his feelings about the French Open clear with a comment about Rafael Nadal. The world No 1 crashed out of the Rome Masters to Holger Rune on Wednesday, leaving the clay-court Major as his next tournament. And he admitted that everyone’s chances in Paris rely on whether Nadal will play as he named two other players who could be a threat.

Djokovic’s attempt to defend his Italian Open title ended in the quarter-final as the top seed lost to Rune 6-2 4-6 6-2. Ahead of the tournament, the Serb had a 2-2 record on the clay so far for the season but improved to 5-3 following his run in Rome.

The world No 1 has still been struggling with some physical issues during the clay swing while 14-time French Open champion Nadal is still sidelined with the psoas injury he picked up four months ago. The Spaniard is now set to hold a press conference at his academy on Thursday to confirm whether or not he will compete, and the reasons why.

It has left uncertainties over who will be the favourite at Roland Garros, and Djokovic himself weighed in after his defeat. And the 35-year-old still thinks that Nadal’s participation will determine everyone else’s chances of winning the title. “It depends if Nadal plays or not,” he smiled when asked if the upcoming French Open would be the most open in the last two decades.

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As well as his long-time rival, Djokovic named two other players he thought would be dangerous in Paris – including his conqueror in Rome. He added: “But next to him of course Alcaraz, Rune, these guys are right there in the contention, some of the biggest favourites to win the title.”

And the world No 7 agreed with him, as Rune also said his chances would rest on whether Nadal was back in time to compete at his most successful tournament. “I still think, I mean, if Rafa is ready, Novak, I still see those two as the biggest favourites,” he said when asked if he was a title contender.

The 20-year-old followed Djokovic in naming Carlos Alcaraz as one of the favourites, while also throwing Jannik Sinner into the mix. He continued: “Obviously there is Alcaraz also. There’s Sinner.

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“There’s a couple of other guys that also did well in the clay season here this year. I see it maybe more open this year than the other years. It’s interesting. It makes it more fun. We’ll see. I’m just going to fight for every match I play.”

It still remains to be seen whether Nadal announces his participation at the French Open. While Djokovic’s attention will now turn to Paris following his exit in Rome, Rune will face either Casper Ruud or Francisco Cerundolo in the semi-final at the Italian Open.

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