Eurosport's Tim Henman would put Carlos Alcaraz "fractionally ahead" of Novak Djokovic in terms of the favourites to triumph at the 2023 French Open when all the action kicks off at Roland-Garros from May 28.
The huge news prior to the tournament getting underway was reigning champion and 'King of Clay' Rafael Nadal withdrawing due to his ongoing injury frustrations. As such, the men's draw will be fascinating with Daniil Medvedev having jumped Djokovic in being the second seed.
World No. 1 Alcaraz and Djokovic are the "two clear favourites", Henman believes, with the level of the duo "just a little bit higher" than the other contenders for glory in Paris ahead of the second Grand Slam of the season.
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"It would be an incredible match to watch," Henman told members of the media regarding a potential clash between Djokovic and Alcaraz at the French Open, which will be live on Eurosport and discovery+.
"Djokovic’s standard is so high and we expect him to play brilliantly every day, but it’s not that easy. His career at this stage is about the majors, but he has been building up his timing and resilience for the Grand Slams.
"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.
"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.
"Could Sinner beat Alcaraz? Yes. Could Djokovic, yes? But if I had to choose a player to win the match, I would say Carlos.
"Alcaraz is probably more like Djokovic than Nadal due to their power and flexibility. They are the two best movers I’ve ever seen. They can change direction, [fire a] backhand down the line, they can do everything. Alcaraz’s game is impressive as he is so young and has so much variation. He volleys well and uses drop shots. He has already won a Slam and has a huge future.
“We have been very lucky in men’s tennis to have some great rivalries and we’re now looking for the next rivalries to evolve. It would be great for Carlos to play Djokovic a few more times before Novak retires.
"Looking at Sinner and Alcaraz, they have had some great matches already and that could be a great rivalry. Holger Rune is a great competitor and still so young. We’re looking for these new dynamics for the game."
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Schett agreed that Alcaraz was her slight favourite with the Spaniard physically "on a different planet", but she insisted that "you can never write off Novak Djokovic".
"Alcaraz is my favourite: the way he has played this year, the way he has played on clay," she said.
"He has played a lot more tennis than Novak. He wants nothing more than winning the title. Carlos is winning tournaments left, right and centre. He has the experience and the expertise.
"Physically, he is on a different planet, but he also shows a lot of skill. It is a joy to watch him play; he is paying the best tennis of his life at the moment.
"Alcaraz has won six tournaments this year and the way he played in Madrid and Barcelona, he is full of confidence. He has taken tennis to a whole new level which we didn’t think was possible after witnessing the 'big three' in the past.
"I think he can win it and I’m sure he will win it in the future. The only thing I worry about in the long-term is him physically and how his body will hold up over 15 years. I thought the exact same thing with Rafael Nadal, though, because of his physical game and his knee and foot problems, but then he has had such a long career. To me, if he is healthy, he will be the world No. 1 for a good few years.
"You can never write off Novak Djokovic with all his experience at Grand Slam events, and of winning so many finals. The way he moves and the way his mindset is with his pure power is just incredible.
"It hasn’t been ideal this year – he had some time off after the Australian Open and hasn’t played that much tennis, but he has only lost three matches this year. I would still put money on Novak at Roland-Garros."
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Stream the 2023 French Open live on discovery+, the Eurosport app and at eurosport.com
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