What Novak Djokovic needs to do to be top seed at French Open

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic in Melbourne
Novak Djokovic in Melbourne

Novak Djokovic was knocked off the top of the ATP rankings by Carlos Alcaraz earlier this month, but he has a big chance to be back at No 1 in time for the French Open.

Djokovic was unable to compete at the Indian Wells and Miami Masters events as he was blocked from entering America due to his Covid vaccine status.

That cost him the chance to compete for 2,000 ranking points, as he missed the Sunshine Double for a second successive year.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion is expected to make his return at the Monte Carlo Masters next month and he should be on course to reclaim the No 1 ranking in time for the French Open in June.

Djokovic will be defending 1,520 ranking points ahead of the French Open, with the bulk of those collected from the 2022 Madrid Masters and his victory in the Rome Masters.

Meanwhile, current world No 1 Alcaraz has 1,510 points to defend from the same period last year, with his win at the Madrid Masters making up a bulk of those points.

Djokovic’s disappointing early exit at the Monte Carlos Masters gives him a first chance to claim the No 1 ranking in that tournament.

Then he could opt to play in Barcelona or at the Srpska Open in Bosnia if he wants to get more match practice in on clay courts.

He will then head to Madrid and Rome and may need to beat Alcaraz at least once to ensure he is top seed for the French Open.

“Novak is one of the best players in the world. That’s obvious. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” said Alcaraz after he won the Indian Wells Masters earlier this month.

“I wish to play against him many more times.”

Meanwhile, Djokovic congratulated Alcaraz on his return to the top of the rankings in an interview with CNN.

“I congratulate Alcaraz, he absolutely deserves to come back to number one,” said the Serbian.

“It’s a pity I wasn’t able to play Indian Wells and Miami, I had plenty of success there, but is a conscious decision I made.”

The debate over who is the true king of tennis will be decided when Djokovic and Alcaraz meet, with tennis legend Chris Evert impressed by the brilliance of the young Spaniard.

“I don’t know how he can improve anymore,” she told Eurosport.

“The beauty of his game is that he has no weaknesses whatsoever for any of his opponents to sort of have a chance unless he’s having a bad day.

“Other top players in the past, they’ve been brilliant, but you always felt like there was some sort of weakness in their game or something they could really magnify and bring out.

“And Carlos, the way he is defensively, the way he is offensively, no other player can do those two aspects as well as he can.

“He is the best mover on the ATP Tour by far, I think and the fact that he has the mental component as well, which is the confidence, he thinks he should win any match that he plays.

“He has a sheer passion and delight every time he hits a ball. He’s just very creative and he adapts very well. I think this is definitely going to be his year.

“I don’t see how it can’t be unless he gets injured. I have high expectations. Some majors, maybe more than one, and maybe some good rivalries will come out of the men’s side as well.

“I’m in awe when I watch him, I’m flabbergasted. I’m just in disbelief as to the guests, how well he moves, how he improvises and adapts to certain situations, how flexible, his tool set… I think we’re seeing a new level, a higher level of tennis.

“You always think you’ve seen the greatest with Roger and Rafa and Novak, but every decade it just seems like there appears a player that is at even a higher level than the former champion.

“So I think this is going to be one of those decades, and I think he will bring the level up of Sinner and Taylor Fritz and Medvedev and the players that are going to be the new leaders in the men’s game.”

The big wild card for this year’s French Open will be where Rafael Nadal lands in the draw, with the 14-time Roland Garros champion dropping out of the top ten of the world rankings for the first time in 18 years last week.

That opens the prospect to Nadal playing both Djokovic and Alcaraz before the semi-finals in Paris.

Djokovic should not have any more issues with his vaccine stance, with European nations enforcing diluted rules compared to America.

He is also set to be able to enter America for the events leading up to and including the US Open in September.

READ MORE: Former world No 1 assesses Carlos Alcaraz’s chances of winning 2023 French Open