Djokovic eyes historical past at French Open as Swiatek launches title defence

Novak Djokovic will bid for a record-breaking twenty third Grand Slam title at a French Open with out his outdated rival Rafael Nadal for the primary time since 2004, whereas Iga Swiatek makes an attempt to change into the primary lady to defend the title in 16 years.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic(AP)

Serbian veteran Djokovic won’t be the favorite for the title, although, after battling an elbow harm and failing to get previous the quarter-finals in any of his three clay-court occasions thus far this season.

Carlos Alcaraz gained the Barcelona and Madrid Opens en path to taking on from Djokovic as world primary, whereas Daniil Medvedev is seeded second for Roland Garros after his maiden clay triumph in Rome.

However Djokovic will know it is a huge alternative to interrupt out of his tie with 14-time French Open winner Nadal on the prime of the all-time listing of most males’s Slam singles titles.

The 2-time champion has misplaced eight of his 10 French Open conferences with Nadal who’s lacking this yr’s version resulting from a hip harm he suffered on the Australian Open.

“I know I can always play better,” Djokovic stated after shedding to Holger Rune within the Italian Open final eight.

“Definitely am looking forward to working on various aspects of my game, of my body, hopefully getting myself in 100 percent shape. That’s the goal.”

Djokovic and Alcaraz are seeded to fulfill within the semi-finals after being positioned in the identical half of the draw.

The 36-year-old might also need to get previous Monte Carlo Masters champion Andrey Rublev within the quarters.

The opposite facet of the draw seems broad open, with in-form Medvedev the very best seed regardless of by no means having beforehand obtained previous the quarter-finals on the Paris clay.

The Russian misplaced within the first spherical on every of his first 4 visits earlier than making the quarters in 2021.

“I would never (have) thought I would be able to make this (win a clay-court title),” Medvedev stated after beating Rune within the Rome closing.

“But I have to be honest — a Grand Slam is always bigger.”

In-form teenager Rune, who made a shock run to final yr’s quarter-finals, might face Casper Ruud within the final eight in a rematch of a bad-tempered assembly 12 months in the past.

Ruud went on to be thrashed within the closing by Nadal and in addition misplaced the US Open showpiece match to Alcaraz.

However the Norwegian world quantity 4 has struggled for kind this yr, solely reaching the quarters in two of the ten tournaments he has performed.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, who misplaced the 2021 closing to Djokovic after being two units up, might be among the many possible contenders however has not gained a title but this time period — the longest he has needed to look forward to a trophy in a season since 2018.

New ‘huge three’?

The winner of the ladies’s singles is predicted to be one of many trio of reigning champion Swiatek, Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.

They’ve gained the final 4 Grand Slam titles between them and a minimum of one in every of them has featured in each WTA 1000 closing this season.

Swiatek, who turns 22 in the course of the event, would be the favorite as she chases a 3rd Roland Garros triumph and a primary profitable ladies’s title defence since Justine Henin gained her third French Open in a row in 2007.

The Polish star retired from her Italian Open quarter-final towards Rybakina with a thigh harm however skilled at Roland Garros on Wednesday.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina, ranked fourth, has already gained the Rome and Indian Wells titles in 2023 and will face Swiatek within the Roland Garros semis.

“Hopefully I can go far at the French Open,” she stated. “I’ve good reminiscences enjoying there.

“Now that I’ve got more matches on clay, it’s a bit easier and (gives me) a bit more confidence.”

Different title hopefuls embody final yr’s runner-up Coco Gauff, Tunisian Ons Jabeur and world quantity three Jessica Pegula.

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