Daniil Medvedev and Cameron Norrie are 2023’s clay court dark horses who could cause a French Open upset

James Richardson
Cameron Norrie

Three men are considered strong favourites for the French Open crown, and two of those are all-time greats, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

The third man who joins them as French Open favourites is Nadal’s young compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz was brilliant on clay last term, winning titles at home events in Madrid and Barcelona after his breakthrough in Rio.

His run to the US Open title means he has the experience of winning a slam behind him, and of all players, he is favoured as the strongest shot at breaking the dominance of Nadal and Djokovic.

Another player who isn’t a dark horse on clay is 2021 Roland Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, who has the game to win titles on the surface, although questions remain about whether he has the temperament to win a Grand Slam.

A couple of players who haven’t traditionally been strong on clay have laid down some performances that suggest they could make a serious French Open push.

Those two men are former World No 1 and hard court expert Daniil Medvedev and British No 1 Cameron Norrie.

Norrie has taken a peculiar pathway on the ATP Tour this season, following up a Davis Cup appearance in Colombia, on clay, by taking part in the South American swing which includes the earliest clay events on the ATP Tour schedule.

Those events in South America not only gave Norrie the chance to turn out on clay a lot sooner than most but also served to boost his confidence on a surface that, while unfamiliar, could suit elements of his game down to the ground.

Starting in the Davis Cup tie against Colombia, Norrie went on a five match winning streak on clay that was only ended by a returning Alcaraz in the Buenos Aires final.

Norrie would also get that championship match defeat back when he defeated the US Open champion in Rio to deny him the defence of his title.

That win was Norrie’s first ATP 500 championship and means he has now won titles at every level except a Grand Slam.

It also meant that Norrie put together two five-match winning runs on clay this season and has shown himself capable of hanging with the best players on the surface.

Medvedev is another player not known for his clay court prowess who could surprise this season.

The lopsided nature of Medvedev’s championship record is well documented as are the reasons for it.

Medvedev’s defensive game is best suited to quicker courts, while his reluctance to get forward has been his downfall on grass while he also plays a little too far behind the baseline to be great on clay.

However, Medvedev is a player, like Norrie, who is learning and growing and his run at Indian Wells suggests he might prove a tough nut to crack at the French Open this season.

Indian Wells has played even slower than usual, which hasn’t thrilled Medvedev but he has still dealt with it to keep his winning streak going.

A few deep runs in the lead-up to the French Open might just give Medvedev the boost he needs to mount a major challenge in Paris.

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