Novak Djokovic confident of matching Rafael Nadal as he ‘really likes’ French Open chances

Novak Djokovic talks about his stance on Covid vaccinations

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Novak Djokovic has bullishly talked up his French Open chances after his first tournament win of 2022. The Serbian star has endured a controversial year so far, and was barred from competing on the eve of the Australian Open amid his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid.

He later missed tournaments in both Indian Wells and Miami for the same reason, but his clay-court preparations are now in full swing following his success at the Italian Open. The 34-year-old won through to the final in Rome, where he dispatched of Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0 7-6.

In contrast Nadal, who took full advantage of his rival’s absence in Australia to beat Daniil Medvedev and claim an unprecedented 21st Slam crown, is having his preparations disrupted. The Spaniard was ruled out for six weeks after suffering a stress fracture in his rib at Indian Wells in March, and was beaten in the second round in Rome by Denis Shapovalov.

During that clash, he was hindered by a foot injury that has plagued him since his disrupted 2021 campaign. As a result, despite the 35-year-old having triumphed 13 times in Roland Garros, pre-tournament momentum seems to have shifted towards Djokovic.

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And it’s a notion that the current World No 1 seems to be keen to embrace himself. Tennis journalist Sasa Ozmo took to Twitter to quote Djokovic as saying: “I would rate myself as one of the favourites [at Roland Garros]. I go there with the highest ambitions, particularly of the way [I] played here. I really like my chances.”

He will head to Paris as the defending champion, beating Tsitsipas in the final in 2021 to claim a 19th Grand Slam title. He duly made that 20 at Wimbledon in the summer, but defeat in the final of the US Open to Medvedev scuppered his chances of a ‘Calendar Slam’.

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Immeidately after his final in Rome, Djokovic warned rivals he was finding his best just in time for the French Open, which gets underway this weekend: “I’ve been building my form the last couple weeks,” he said.

“And like the previous years, I knew that my best shape on the clay is usually coming around Rome time. So [I] couldn’t be better time obviously coming into Roland Garros with the title in this wonderful tournament.”

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