Novak Djokovic backs Mats Wilander to win the French Open


Novak Djokovic is ranked by Mats Wilander as a narrow favorite over Rafael Nadal to win the French Open.

For the 13th time and fourth consecutive year, Nadal is aiming to win the Coupe des Mousquetaires, but seven-time Grand Slam champion Wilander feels this year he has his job cut out for him.

The French Open will be held in the fall instead of the spring, since the calendar has been rearranged due to the coronavirus pandemic, meaning harsher weather and the use of floodlights for the first time.

Meanwhile, since February, Nadal has played only three matches since opting not to defend his US Open title and losing to Diego Schwartzman in the quarterfinals of last week’s Italian Open in Rome.

During the tournament, Wilander, who works for Eurosport, told the PA news agency, “I think this year the field has a much better chance than any year I can remember since Rafa began winning.”

“For Rafa, that’s a huge, big difference. For him, it’s a huge challenge and he’s going to be hoping for some sort of Indian summer. I think it’s fine for Novak. When it was rainy, Novak almost beat him (the 2012 final).

“But also the field – I think the hard-court players will do better because it’s not as slippery when it’s a little bit wetter and colder, the balls don’t spin as much.”

In Rome, Djokovic won the title, bouncing back with flying colors from the shock of disqualification at the US Open.

The New York game against Pablo Carreno Busta, in which he was thrown out of the tournament after mistakenly hitting an angry ball against a linesman at the end of the first set, remains the only one he lost in 2020.

Inevitably, criticism of the on-court actions of Djokovic has escalated, but Wilander claims the unfortunate incident may end up working in his favor.

The Swede said, “I think it’s one of those lessons where you say, ‘Man, I can’t believe I just did that.’ That’s so stupid and so unfortunate. How am I going to recover from this? I’m just going to tell myself that I need to get back at myself and I’m going to win it all. I will not cave in to anything or anyone. I will win Rome, I will win Paris”

He’s so sweet, and when he chooses to be, he’s so mentally tough. He should certainly have won the US Open, but these things happen. And I think that gave him a sort of identity that he didn’t really have compared to Rafa, who is the absolute fighter, and Roger (Federer), wherever he plays, who is this classic, elegant crowd pleaser.

Novak is probably the greatest player of all time, and now we have an identity—a he’s little bit of a bad boy. He gets a lot of credit for caring as much as he does, I guess. That helps him, I guess.

The elimination of Djokovic helped Dominic Thiem to win his first Grand Slam final by winning against Alexander Zverev in a nail-biting final.

Clay is Thiem’s best surface, and in the last two years, he has reached the final at Roland Garros.

The Austrian recovered from a two-set deficit to beat Zverev in New York in a match that had only been determined in the final set’s tie-break, and subsequently revealed that he was heavily worried about missing a fourth Slam final.

If he could forget about the final and just take the win and say to himself, ‘I don’t know what happened that day, but I played well for six matches, I fought hard in the final and I managed to carry home the trophy,’ Wilander wouldn’t be shocked to see Thiem making his second major tournament appearance.

“I think Novak, Rafa and Dominic are the three favorites – I would see Novak slightly ahead of the other two. But these are perfect conditions for Thiem. He can hit through a tough clay court. I think he will be extremely dangerous.”


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