Former world No 5 thinks Carlos Alcaraz is ‘very, very clear favourite’ to win French Open

Ewan West
Carlos Alcaraz in action
Carlos Alcaraz applauds the crowd

Daniela Hantuchova claimed Carlos Alcaraz is the heavy favourite to triumph at this year’s French Open following the Spaniard’s Madrid Open victory.

The former WTA star also believes organisers at the Masters 1000 tournament helped the home favourite by “trying to make the court as slow as possible.”

Alcaraz overcame lucky loser Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in an entertaining Madrid Open final on Sunday.

The 20-year-old’s victory was his second consecutive title defence on home soil, after he also claimed the Barcelona Open title for the second year running last month.

The World No 2 has compiled a superb 29-2 overall record so far in 2023, winning four titles. Three of these triumphs have come on clay courts, on which he has won 19 of 20 matches this season.

While Alcaraz is in sublime form, legendary duo Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have both been facing injury issues prior to Roland Garros.

Nadal, a 14-time French Open champion, has not competed since suffering a hip injury at the Australian Open in January. The 36-year-old Spaniard has withdrawn from the upcoming Italian Open after already missing Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, with his participation at the Paris major uncertain.

Two-time Roland Garros winner Djokovic missed the Madrid Open with an elbow injury after struggling at events in Monte Carlo and Banja Luka. The world No 1 is set to return to action this week in Rome, where he is the defending champion.

Speaking on Prime Video’s coverage after the Madrid Open final, Hantuchova asserted her belief that Alcaraz will be the player to beat at the French Open.

“Honestly nothing really has to happen, even if he loses the first round (in Rome), which is not going to happen. But maybe, he’s still to me a very, very clear favourite ahead of Roland Garros,” Hantuchova said.

“Carlos has had so many more matches behind his belt and for Carlos right now as soon as he steps off the court until he gets to Paris, it’s all about the preparation for Roland Garros already.”

Prior to the final, the Slovakian identified the frequent watering of the Manolo Santana court as an attempt to assist Alcaraz against the big-serving Struff.

“One thing, guys I do want to point out, the groundspeople have watered the court twice since we’ve been talking,” Hantuchova said. “So I feel they’re trying to make the court as slow as possible so it’s easier for Carlos to return that serve.

“But that doesn’t happen, that was the first time this week that I noticed that he’s already covered at least this side twice with the water,” the former world No. 5 added.

“Especially on clay, that’s what we were kind of always expecting when you play a Spanish player here or in Italy when you play someone from Italy.”

Alcaraz is next set to make his debut at the Italian Open, where play in the men’s main draw begins on Wednesday, 10 May.

The 2023 French Open will be held from May 28 until June 11.

READ MORE: ATP Rankings: Carlos Alcaraz set to overtake Novak Djokovic after Italian Open