Carlos Alcaraz has stamped his favouritism for the French Open after taking down Stefanos Tsitsipas to win back-to-back titles at the Barcelona Open. With doubts surrounding Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Alcaraz now appears to be the red-hot favourite to take the title at Roland Garros.
Alcaraz produced a near-flawless display in Barcelona on Sunday to claim his third title of 2023, crushing Tsitsipas in straight sets to retain the crown he won last year. The 19-year-old Spaniard was in commanding form in a 6-3 6-4 victory over the second seed, which adds to his title wins in Buenos Aires and Indian Wells so far this year.
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Alcaraz is currently World No.2 behind Djokovic - and his Barcelona title won't be enough to go to the top of the rankings. But with Djokovic troubled by an elbow problem and withdrawing from the Madrid Open, and Nadal still out of action with a hip injury he suffered at the Australian Open, Alcaraz appears likely to go into the French Open as the overwhelming favourite.
"It's incredible. To feel this energy and lift the trophy in Barcelona in front of my family and friends, and most members of my team are here as well," Alcaraz said after defending his title without dropping a set all tournament. "Playing this level and to lift the trophy in front of them is a good feeling for me."
However Alcaraz was quick to play down speculation that he is the French Open champion-in-waiting, just five weeks out from the second major of the year in Paris. "I don't want to be anyone's replacement," Alcaraz said when asked if he is the heir apparent to Nadal - who turns 37 in June.
"In the two years that Rafa hasn't been here, I've been lucky. Or let's say, I've won the title.
"I've always wanted to play against the best, it's a shame that we haven't been able to enjoy Rafa these last two years. Let's hope he continues to play for a long time and that we can enjoy his tennis, but obviously we are not here to take over from anyone, but to build our own history."
Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic out of Madrid Open
Nadal has now missed the Barcelona Open - which he has won 11 times in his career - two years running. The 22-time grand slam champ hasn't played since the Australian Open four months ago despite initially saying he'd only miss between six and eight weeks.
Nadal boasts a stunning win-loss record at the French Open of 112-3 since his title-winning debut in 2005. However there are major fears that the Spanish veteran won't be able to take his place at Roland Garros.
The 36-year-old revealed on Friday that he won't be playing in Madrid this week, with Djokovic also sitting out the clay-court tournament. "For the moment I've missed Monte Carlo and Barcelona. And unfortunately I won't be able to be in Madrid either," Nadal said on Instagram.
"The injury still hasn't healed. In principle it was supposed to be a recovery period of six to eight weeks and now we're around 14.
"The reality is that the situation is not what we would have hoped for. All medical indications have been followed, but the healing has not gone as they told us initially and we find ourselves in a difficult situation."
Alcaraz added on Sunday: "Roland Garros is a clear short-term objective. It's a tournament I really want to win, but now we are focused on Madrid and then Rome. Winning the tournament here in Barcelona gives me extra confidence for what's to come."
26 winners to 7 unforced errors against the world No 5 in a final.
If Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic aren't fully fit for the French Open, good luck to anyone who thinks they can beat Carlos Alcaraz.
— James Gray (@jamesgraysport) April 23, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz with yet another fluent performance to defeat Tsitsipas in straight sets....
Back-to-back Barcelona Open titles
The same opponent in the finals
3 titles in the 2023 calendar year
Ready for French Open pic.twitter.com/6IJgwtnvwq
— Expert Baller (@expertballers) April 23, 2023
Definitely did not expect that scoreline, Impressive win from Alcaraz.
— H. (@HaroldHalloween) April 23, 2023
Always a delight watching Carlitos playing! 🥰👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
— Maritza (@fdezmm) April 23, 2023
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