French Open 2019: Novak Djokovic picks Rafael Nadal as Roland Garros favourite; says he's looking forward to tough competition

Novak Djokovic also named Austrian Dominic Thiem, the 25-year-old world number four, and 11th-ranked Italian Fabio Fognini, who is 31, as strong contenders for French Open.

Reuters May 22, 2019 16:01:51 IST
French Open 2019: Novak Djokovic picks Rafael Nadal as Roland Garros favourite; says he's looking forward to tough competition
  • Novak Djokovic said Dominic Thiem, Fabio Fognini are strong contenders for French Open

  • Djokovic said former World No 1 Rafael Nadal is favourite for the title

  • Djokovic recently lost to Nadal 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in Italian Open final

Belgrade: World number one Novak Djokovic has enjoyed two good weeks on red clay but admitted that winning a second French Open title would be a tall order after a crushing defeat by Rafael Nadal in last week’s Italian Open final.

Djokovic clinched the Madrid Open without dropping a set and then won a pair of epic battles against Argentines Juan Martin Del Potro and Diego Schwartzman in Rome before succumbing to the imperious Nadal 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 in Sunday’s final.

French Open 2019 Novak Djokovic picks Rafael Nadal as Roland Garros favourite says hes looking forward to tough competition

File image of Novak Djokovic. AFP

That defeat aside, the Serb’s form seems to have peaked in time for the May 26-June 9 tournament. However, the 32-year-old from Belgrade, who has won 15 Grand Slam titles, made it clear Nadal, who is the same age, was the favourite at Roland Garros.

He also named Austrian Dominic Thiem, the 25-year-old world number four, and 11th-ranked Italian Fabio Fognini, who is 31, as strong contenders.

“Nadal (is) the number one favourite without a doubt, and then everyone else,” a serene Djokovic told reporters after he was beaten by the Spaniard at the Foro Italico.

“I think it’s going to be a really good tournament. Dominic Thiem has been playing some good tennis and he can beat anybody, especially on clay.

“Fognini is also playing quality tennis, he showed against Nadal in Monte Carlo what he is capable of,” he added referring to the Italian’s 6-4 6-2 semi-final victory.

“On a given day, best of five (sets), with one day between matches, players will have enough time to really be at their best.

“Everybody is trying to peak for Roland Garros and I am really looking forward to it.”

Patchy form

Djokovic’s exploits on clay came after several months of patchy form following his January triumph at the Australian Open in Melbourne where he beat Nadal in straight sets.

A quarter-final loss in Monte Carlo came on the back of early exits at Indian Wells and Miami, prompting speculation by pundits that Djokovic was heading for a dip in form similar to the one in 2016 after he won his maiden French Open title.

But the Serb silenced his critics with a vintage run in Rome, including a rip-roaring victory over Del Potro when he saved two match points in the second set before dismantling his close friend in the third.

He then held his nerve against the battling Schwarzman before running out of steam versus, leaving doubts as to whether he will have enough in the tank to match world number two Nadal for energy during the gruelling two-week event in Paris.

Djokovic has already achieved the rare feat of holding all four major honours at the same time, having won the 2015 Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles before clinching the Australian Open and French Open crowns the following year.

After two difficult years dogged by an injury which required elbow surgery and a dramatic loss of form, Djokovic bounced back spectacularly to clinch the Wimbledon and the U.S. Open titles again in 2018 as well as this year’s Australian Open.

He is certainly buoyed by the prospect of emulating his achievement of holding all four majors but knows that nothing less than perfection will be required for what would amount to a carbon copy of his most successful 12 months on tour.

Updated Date:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

French Open 2020: Novak Djokovic insists 'won't make same New York mistake twice'
Sports

French Open 2020: Novak Djokovic insists 'won't make same New York mistake twice'

As well as attracting wide-ranging condemnation for his perceived petulance, the incident also went down in the record books as a defeat - Djokovic's only loss in 32 matches in 2020.

Coronavirus pandemic: Rafael Nadal concerned about spectators in stands at this year's French Open
Sports

Coronavirus pandemic: Rafael Nadal concerned about spectators in stands at this year's French Open

The French Open which has been pushed back from May to a 27 September start, could host up to 11,500 spectators per day.

French Open 2020: Andy Murray handed wild card as he continues steady rise up world rankings
Sports

French Open 2020: Andy Murray handed wild card as he continues steady rise up world rankings

Murray was also awarded a wild card into the US Open, after his struggles with pelvic and shin injuries dropped his ranking to 129th. He went two rounds in New York, and improved his ranking to 110th.