Novak Djokovic in top form just in time for the French Open: The role of favorite in Paris changes

“Stand up for the champion” sounded through Foro Italico as Novak Djokovic lifted the trophy to heaven over the Eternal City for the sixth time in his career. The anthem of victory of the Italian musician Patrizio Buanne was apparently well known by the world number one. After kissing the trophy, he stepped forward to the microphone – and joined in the chorus.

But the “champion” in Rome on Sunday afternoon was none other than Djokovic himself: The 34-year-old Serb had previously beaten Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-5 (7-6) in the final of the Clay Court Masters and celebrated his 38th winning Masters title – in the Italian capital of all places.

“It’s always very special to play here,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said in perfect Italian after the match at Center Court. “It’s a place that has always given me confidence. It feels like home, playing in this place and in this country,” Djokovic said, thanking Tifosi for their “support and energy”.

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Just in time for the title defense mission, Djokovic is on his way: a week before the start of the French Open (May 22 to June 5 live on TV on Eurosport and on Eurosport on Joyn +) he celebrated his first tournament victory of the calendar year. The reigning Roland Garros winner made an impressive comeback after a difficult start to the season.

Novak Djokovic

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Spaniards in the eyes of the public

For after entry posse in Australia, the sporting spotlight gradually shifted away from Djokovic. When Rafael Nadal celebrated his 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne, he sat in front of the television because of his vaccination status. Likewise when Carlos Alcaraz slung himself to the top of the world with his semifinals in Indian Wells and later in Miami with his first Masters title.

On the other hand, Belgrade in Monaco failed in its opening match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (3: 6, 7: 6, 1: 6), losing the final in his hometown against Andrey Rublev (2: 6, 7: 6, 0: 6) and was defeated by the 19-year-old shooting star Alcaraz from Spain in the semifinals in Madrid last week (7: 6, 5: 7, 6: 7).

A day later, with the show of strength in the final against Alexander Zverev, Alcaraz in the Spanish capital also made himself “one of the top favorites” for Djokovic to win in Paris. “So far this year he is – without a doubt – the best player in the world with the results he has achieved,” the Serbian ennobled him. The Olympic champion also said after the bankruptcy in the final: “You are currently the best player in the world!”
And after his record-breaking start to the season with 20 wins in a row before his parade tournament (13 French Open titles), Nadal inevitably slipped into the role of favorite. Djokovic, meanwhile, seemed to play the role of a co-favorite with regard to Roland Garros. Also because after the tournament in Belgrade he reported a disease that affected his metabolism. But suddenly the carousel of favorites turns 180 degrees.

Last highlights: Djokovic misses Tsitsipas with a bagel in set one

Djokovic conquers Rome again

First, Nadal retired in Madrid with another foot injury, then Alcaraz also canceled his start in Italy with foot problems.

And Djokovic? Stormed back to tennis Olympus in Rome. The Serb swept Arslan Karatsev (6: 3, 6: 2), Stan Wawrinka (6: 2, 6: 2), Felix Auger-Aliassime (7: 5, 7: 6) on his way to his sixth success in the Eternal City, Casper Ruud (6: 4, 6: 3) and Tsitsipas (6: 0, 7: 6) and did not lose a single set throughout the tournament. In the semifinals, he also broke the wall of 1000 victories on the ATP Tour – as only the fifth player in history.

Tsitsipas, recently described by Alexander Zverev as “the best clay court player in the world”, received the humiliation of a bagel in the first set and then bowed to Djokovic: “I hope I can reach your level one day. “

“I’ve built up my form over the last couple of weeks,” Djokovic said in an interview on the pitch after the final. “I knew I usually get my best shape on clay around Rome,” he explained.

Novak Djokovic

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The pendulum swings

Perfect tournament planning: Seven days before the start in Paris, the world number one is tensing its muscles.

Eurosport expert Mats Wilander was one of the few who had Djokovic on his list back in March. “He was able to put together his training plan perfectly for physical fitness,” the 57-year-old Swede explained, adding him to the circle of top favorites. But according to Wilander: “He will need a bit of confidence in the run-up to the French Open.”

He demonstrated his physical fitness during the tournament in Rome – the confidence that was ignited afterwards: “I played great two days ago,” he said, adding in relation to the final against the 23-year-old Greek: “Today I played a perfect first set. “

For a long time, progress was on the side of the Spaniards. One week before mission number three in the city of love, Djokovic is already in top form. “It could not be better than going to Roland-Garros with a title behind you,” Djokovic said after the final aiming for the 21st Grand Slam triumph. On Sunday, the favorite pendulum swung. From Spain to Serbia.

Djokovic goes to Paris as a favorite. It is very possible that the French spectators will also get up on the last day in three weeks on the Philippe-Chatrier track – as in Italy. Stand up for the master.

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