Eyebrows were raised after Carlos Alcaraz’s straight-sets defeat by Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan in Rome last week. However, given just how much the world no. 1 has played recently worldwide to make up for lost time after injury, that early Masters 1000 exit might have served him well before bigger things await, starting this Sunday as one of the clear French Open favourites.
Alcaraz boosted by an upset loss? The timing was sweet
- Former world no. 2 Corretja told Eurosport: “It was the best thing that could happen to him. Now he had time off, rested and is much fresher for Roland-Garros – spent a few days relaxing, practising again to be ready.”
- The world no. 1 will face a qualifier or lucky loser in R1, before a second-round clash against Chris O’Connell or Taro Daniel. Denis Shapovalov , Lorenzo Musetti  and Cameron Norrie  are the seeds in his section
- Alcaraz, a French Open quarter-finalist twelve months ago, will be keen to see his winning tennis form of late translate to Grand Slam success in the best-of-five set format after missing out on Melbourne through injury
Casper Ruud, a finalist on the Parisian clay last year, came unstuck during a three-set battle against Chile’s Nicolas Jarry in Geneva overnight.
Felix Auger-Aliassime tactically withdrew before a quarter-final clash there against Arthur Fils, while Taylor Fritz and Britain’s no. 1 Cameron Norrie are among the top-ranked players still featuring in tournaments elsewhere set to finish this weekend.
For context, the French Open main draw proper begins Sunday. So while losing isn’t ideal, the timing of Alcaraz’s stumble in Rome last week couldn’t have been better as far as rest and recuperation are concerned before a monumental fortnight ahead.
As former world no. 2 Alex Corretja pointed out on Eurosport, he’ll be the main Spanish representative with Rafael Nadal’s hip injury causing him to miss a tournament he’s dominated for two decades. Expectations are naturally high.
“We don’t know what level Rafa would have been able to bring had he been healthy enough to give it a go, but he is still Rafa and there’s an intimidation factor that is clear. Now, there’s a little bit of open space.”
- Jim Courier said during a media call earlier this week, per tennis.com
Olympic bronze medallist Pablo Carreno Busta (elbow) is out, while Roberto Bautista Agut has only ever made two Major quarter-finals – both in 2019 – and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina followed his QF finish in 2021 with a first-round exit last season.
Both are seeded but find themselves in Novak Djokovic’s section of the draw too, which only adds to the sense one – or both – don’t make it past the fourth round.
“All eyes will be on him, Novak and all the other potential favourites but being Spanish, knowing that Rafa is not going to be there, all the attention is going to be on him on the men’s side.
Knowing Alcaraz, he will be okay to deal with that, I’m sure. He loves that, amazing and very impressive, but he’ll need to cope with all the attention… everyone asking him about being the favourite and next Spanish winner.”
- Corretja on the attention, Alcaraz’s mindset and managing the noise
Four players, including Alcaraz and Djokovic, can claim world no. 1 status after the tournament’s completion on June 11 and that ranking watch adds another storyline to a competition now devoid of its defending champion through a persistent injury.
Daniil Medvedev has already been there once before, while two-time Major finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas has accomplished enough to flirt with the achievement on more than one occasion but it’s a hurdle he hasn’t been able to clear just yet.
Alcaraz is deemed a far better player than both on clay. Medvedev’s morale would’ve been boosted after clinching his first clay pro title mind, so it’ll be interesting to see how they match up on the surface as one the Russian has slowly grown to like.
Since returning to clinch the Buenos Aires title on clay in mid-February, Alcaraz played 33 matches in 88 days and withdrew from Acapulco through a niggling injury too.
Over the same period…
Medvedev: 36 (including the Italian Open title run)
It’s all about marginal gains, so will the rest do Alcaraz some good before another deep Slam run? Reaffirm the fact that, if he’s having a bad day, he can’t just expect to play an opponent off the court on his rising star power alone? We’ll see.
Picture source: Getty Images, quotes via tennis365.com unless hyperlinked otherwise