Novak Djokovic's shock call on Carlos Alcaraz ahead of French Open

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Pictured right is Novak Djokovic alongside a photo of Carlos Alcaraz.
Novak Djokovic (R) says Carlos Alcaraz is the best player in the world right now. Pic: Getty

Novak Djokovic says Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz is the man to beat at the French Open after declaring the 19-year-old to be the "best player in the world" right now.

Djokovic, who opens his Rome campaign against Russia's Aslan Karatsev, lost to Alcaraz in the semi-finals in Madrid last weekend, before the Spaniard lifted the title with victory over Alexander Zverev in the final.

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Alcaraz - who made history after becoming the first player ever to down Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the same clay court tournament - rose to a career-high ranking of World No.6 after his fourth ATP title of the year.

The Spaniard also became the youngest player since the start of the ATP Tour in 1990 to beat three top-five players at the same event.

Speaking at the Italian Open, Djokovic talked up his young rival by declaring Alcaraz to be one of the favourites to take out the French Open in what would be the teen's first grand slam trophy.

"So far he's the best player in the world, no question, this year with the results that he's been doing," Djokovic said

"The way he was dealing with the pressure in our match a few days ago, how calm he was all the way until the end, was impressive. He deserved to win the trophy."

Alcaraz leads the men's tour with 28 wins against three losses in 2022.

The 19-year-old has seven top-10 victories this season, more than any other player. He is skipping the Rome tournament so he can be in peak condition for the French Open later this month.

"Everything about his game is really impressive. He's a really complete player, can play equally well offensively and defensively. He's the talk of the sport," Djokovic said of Alcaraz.

"Roland Garros, he's definitely one of the main favourites, no doubt."

Carlos Alcaraz is seen here after thrashing Alexander Zverev to win the Madrid Open title.
Carlos Alcaraz became the youngest Madrid Open champion ever after thrashing Alexander Zverev. Image: Getty

Djokovic has missed multiple tournaments this year after choosing not to get vaccinated and arrives in Rome with just 11 matches under his belt (seven wins and four losses).

While he is still searching for his peak form, Djokovic believes his own "level of tennis is really high now".

Rafa Nadal working his way back after injury

Meanwhile, third seed Nadal said he still has work to do to improve his game, having just returned from a six-week injury lay-off in Madrid last week.

The 35-year-old has dealt with numerous physical problems over his career, including a chronic foot injury that flared up last season, and ruled him out of Wimbledon and the US Open.

Nadal returned at the start of 2022, having played just two matches in the previous six months, and stormed to a 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, He accumulated a 20-0 win-loss record before falling to Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells semi-finals.

Nadal revealed that the fact his current injury struck mid-season - rather than at the end of a campaign - makes it a different proposition for the 35-year-old.

Seen here, Rafael Nadal hitting a forehand against Carlos Alcaraz at the Madrid Open.
Rafael Nadal hits a forehand during his match against Carlos Alcaraz at the Madrid Open. Pic: Getty

"My body is like an old machine. To put this machine on again it already takes some time," explained Nadal, who faces John Isner or Francisco Cerundolo in his opening match in Rome.

"It's not the same when you have 19 than when you are almost 36, with all the issues that I went through in my tennis career, no?

"It's more about being confident with my movements, recover the speed, recover the way that I have to play on clay and let's see.

"I am confident that I can play well honestly. I need some time, but maybe this week can be a positive week, maybe not. Who knows?"

with AFP

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