With Rafael Nadal Injured, Is Novak Djokovic Favourite to Win the 2022 French Open Title?

© AP Photo / Mark BakerFILE - Defending champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic practices ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 12, 2022
FILE - Defending champion Serbia's Novak Djokovic practices ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 12, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.05.2022
Novak Djokovic experienced a roller-coaster ride in 2022 as the Serbian began the year by getting deported from Australia due to his vaccination status. A string of early losses and withdrawals from several tournaments followed before a title in Italy breathed new life into his career during the weekend.
On Sunday, World No 1 Novak Djokovic lifted his maiden trophy of the year, having steamrolled last year's French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6 (5) in the final of the Rome Masters at the Foro Italico.

The victory in Rome couldn't have come at a more opportune time for the Serbian, considering he'd arrived in the Italian capital in extremely bad shape.

While his Australian saga is well-known, Djokovic looked completely out-of-touch afterwards.

At times, it appeared like the turmoil he faced Down Under was taking a heavy toll on him mentally, because he wasn't looking his usual self on court.

He was beaten by a qualifier named Jiri Vesely in the quarterfinals of the Dubai ATP event in February, which was ironically his first tournament of 2022.

Following the Dubai shocker, Djokovic missed out on two high-profile tourneys in the United States - Indian Wells and Miami, because unvaccinated foreigners were not allowed to enter the US.
Then came a loss to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain in his opener in Monte Carlo, which was followed by a defeat to Andrey Rublev at home in Belgrade.

Djokovic came up second at Madrid Open as 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz went on to earn a 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 win in a marathon three hours and 38 minutes.

However, the 20-time Grand Slam holder found his form just in time in Italy and is potentially the favourite to claim a second successive Roland Garros title come June.
"I've been building my form for the last couple of weeks and like the previous years, I knew that my best shape on the clay is usually coming around Rome time. So it couldn't be a better time coming into Roland-Garros with a title," Djokovic said after the final.
The Rome victory has come as a blessing in disguise for Djokovic, considering he looked like a pale shadow of himself after what happened in Melbourne earlier in the year.

Nadal, the eternal favourite on Parisian clay, is currently dealing with a chronic foot injury as he made his earliest exit from the tournament since 2008, having been knocked out by Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the Round of 16.
Nadal looked in obvious discomfort in that match and later hinted at retirement from the sport. And even if the reigning Australian Open champion manages to recover from the injury, he would not have enough match time under his belt.

During his unbelievable 17-year reign in Paris, where Nadal has won the title a record 13-times, he has come into the tournament after having won at least one title during the European clay swing.

The only time the King of Clay won the French Open without winning a trophy on the red dirt was in 2020 when it was moved to October due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, from not being part of the conversation to being one of the front-runners for the title, after his record-extending 38th Masters trophy in Rome, Djokovic seems to be back in business.

Jaidip Mukerjea, India's ex-Davis Cup captain, however, doesn't think that Djokovic is the firm favourite to secure his third French Open crown. According to him, that tag should be given to Alcaraz.

For the unversed, Alcaraz stunned both the Serb and the Majorcan to win his second Masters title of 2022 in Madrid earlier this month.
"Djokovic is among the favourites to win the French Open but he's not the overwhelming favourite," Mukerjea told Sputnik on Monday.
"For me, Alcaraz has a slight edge over everyone else because the boy has already triumphed in Barcelona and Madrid. He also knows how to beat Djokovic and Nadal to win a title," he concluded.
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