Novak Djokovic’s quest for a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title was given a boost when Rafa Nadal pulled out of the French Open and the Serbian has arrived at Roland Garros without any injury problems.
Djokovic won a record-extending 10th Australian Open in January – despite coming into the tournament with a hamstring issue – to equal Nadal’s tally of 22 Grand Slams.
An elbow injury forced Djokovic to pull out of the Madrid Open this month and he needed a painkiller during his quarter-final loss in Rome, but the 36-year-old is now back in shape.
“It’s no secret that one of the main reasons I play today and compete in professional tennis is to try to break more records and make more history in tennis. That’s extremely motivating and inspiring for me.
“Things are different than they were 10 years ago in terms of how my body is maybe responding to the schedule… So early in the year I was saying that I put emphasis and priority on the Grand Slams.
“I’m feeling good at the moment. I don’t have any physical issues that worry me. So that’s most important for me, I want to feel good coming into a Grand Slam,” Djokovic told reporters.
As he seeks his place in the history books, Djokovic joked that he was relieved to see Nadal pull out with an injury but described the Spaniard’s absence as a “big loss” for tennis even as it opens up the draw.
Djokovic, who starts against Aleksandar Kovacevic, said world number one Carlos Alcaraz was the “biggest favorite.” Alcaraz and Djokovic are in the same side of the draw and could potentially meet in the semi-final.
Alcaraz won three titles on clay this year before his shock third-round exit from the Italian Open.
But the Spaniard will be expected to resume normal service in his French Open first-round match against Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli on Monday.
Women’s fifth seed Caroline Garcia opens against heavy-hitting Wang Xiyu of China, with French hopes resting on the shoulders of the twice Roland Garros doubles champion.