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British tennis icon Tim Henman has explained why he believes that Carlos Alcaraz can beat Novak Djokovic and win the French Open this year. Following Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from the tournament due to injury, Roland Garros is potentially the most open it has been for years, though the Serbian will be hoping to claim victory in Paris for the third time.
Djokovic will have many challengers, including world No 1 Alcaraz, with players looking to win the first French Open without either Nadal or Roger Federer present since 1998. Henman believes that the Spaniard can lift the trophy on June 11, partially due to the lack of preparation that Djokovic has had.
The Serb was an injury concern in recent weeks, though unlike Nadal, Nick Kyrgios and Andy Murray appears to have recovered in time to play. However, Henman has named Alcaraz his favourite due to playing more tennis recently and thanks to his impressive form on clay.
“Djokovic’s standard is so high and we expect him to play brilliantly every day, but it’s not that easy,” Henman told Eurosport. “His career at this stage is about the majors, but he has been building up his timing and resilience for the Grand Slams.
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“I’m sure, come the start, he will be one of the favourites. I would put Alcaraz fractionally ahead of Djokovic because he has played more tennis and had some good results on clay. Djokovic’s career is now just about the majors and he is building his fitness and level of play. The level of these two is just a little bit higher.
“Behind is [Casper] Ruud, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, [Holger] Rune, [Jannik] Sinner and [Andrey] Rublev – who won his first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo; they’re all great clay-court players. The strength in depth is incredible. But Alcaraz and Djokovic are the two clear favourites.
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“Not too many players can beat him [Alcaraz] on clay. He is so sound. He serves bigger, better, and more accurately. He doesn’t make mistakes. His movement is as good as I’ve ever seen. He has great variation, comes to the net, uses drop shots. His forehand and backhand from the back of the court are incredible.”
Djokovic missed the Madrid Open due to an elbow injury but returned to action at the Italian Open, though crashed out to Rune at the quarter-final stage. During the tournament, Djokovic lost his ranking top spot to Alcaraz, then dropped to third following Daniil Medvedev’s final win in Rome.
The Russian is now 10-2 on clay this year and will be hoping to go further than his best finish as a quarter-finalist in 2021, though Henman is still backing Alcaraz over Medvedev and Djokovic.
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