In Rafa’s absence, Next-Gen set to challenge at open Roland Garros

Paris, May 27

Rafa Nadal’s decision to skip the French Open due to injury has set up one of the most uncertain men’s tournaments in Paris in almost 20 years but a new generation led by world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz stands ready to grab a rare opportunity.

Carlos Alcaraz’s (in pic) path to glory is not going to be easy with Novak Djokovic hunting for his 23rd Major. reuters

Nadal, who won the first of his record 14 titles at the claycourt Grand Slam in 2005, withdrew due to a lingering hip issue that has decimated his season since the Australian Open and the Spaniard expects to retire after the 2024 campaign.

As Roland Garros gears up for a surreal edition without the ever-present 22-time Major champion, another tenacious Spaniard has emerged as one of the top contenders trying to keep a Grand Slam out of Novak Djokovic’s hands.

Alcaraz warmed up for his tilt at the Paris crown by winning the Barcelona and Madrid titles, and despite a hiccup in Rome is now in his third spell as No. 1 after first reaching the peak by winning last year’s US Open.

Djokovic, who will be going for a 23rd Major title after going level with Nadal at Melbourne Park in January, sees the 20-year-old as the man to beat.

“A new generation is here already,” said the Serb. “Obviously, he’s playing amazing tennis. It’s also good for our sport that we have new faces. We’ve been saying for years that we can expect that moment to come when you have a shift of generations. I’m personally still trying to hang in there with all of them. I still have the hunger to keep going. Let’s see how far I’m going to play.”

Stop-start year

Djokovic’s preparation for the season’s second Grand Slam has been far from ideal. In another stop-start year due to his refusal to take the Covid vaccine, the Serb missed Masters tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami, while an elbow issue forced him out of Madrid.

He then struggled with a physical issue in Rome and lost to Dane Holger Rune, who finished runner-up to Daniil Medvedev.

While Djokovic says it is time for a new generation to shine, Munich champion Rune said the Serb would be his pick to win a third Paris title. “If I have to pick one favourite, I’ll probably pick Novak. But it’s more open because we don’t have Rafa,” he added. — Reuters

Meet the top-3 women contenders


World No. 1 Swiatek is the favourite to defend her crown on the Parisian clay but the odds of her success will depend on whether she has fully recovered from a thigh injury, which forced her to retire from her quarter-final match in Rome.

The Pole has contested four finals this year, winning titles Qatar and Stuttgart prior to her injury in Rome, and she enters the claycourt major having held her position as the top-ranked player for 60 consecutive weeks.


Aryna Sabalenka has eyes trained on conquering Paris. Reuters

After winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, Sabalenka established herself as a serious contender at the French Open in recent weeks by beating Swiatek in the Madrid Open final, shortly after losing to her in the final in Stuttgart.


Rybakina won the biggest claycourt title of her career in Rome and made her top five debut this week as she continues to raise the bar since winning Wimbledon last year. After finishing runner-up at the Australian Open, winning the title at Indian Wells and reaching the final at the Miami Open, the Moscow-born Kazakh is now eyeing the biggest prize on the claycourts of Paris. Reuters

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