Novak Djokovic has Paris in the back of his mind – ‘Roland-Garros is the ultimate goal’

Shahida Jacobs
Novak Djokovic during a match
Novak Djokovic blowing a kiss

Novak Djokovic is up and running at the 2023 Monte Carlo Masters and the world No 1 hopes the tournament will be a stepping stone to achieving his “ultimate goal on clay”, which is winning at Roland Garros.

Much like 2022, the tennis great has had a rollercoaster start to the year as he kicked off the campaign with a bang by winning a 10th Australian Open title, which saw him draw level with Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slams.

After recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained en route to lifting the title in Melbourne, he featured at the Dubai Tennis Championships but he then missed the Sunshine Double in Indian Wells and Miami as he is not allowed to enter the United States due to his unvaccinated status.

After more than a month on the sidelines, Djokovic finally kicked off his clay-court campaign at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament on Tuesday with “an ugly” 7-6, 6-2 victory over world No 198 Ivan Gakhov in the second round.

Naturally he is gunning for a third title and first since 2015 in Monte Carlo, but the event is ultimately just a stepping stone towards the French Open.

Only two of Djokovic’s 22 Grand Slams have been won Paris and hopes to change that.

“I have to say, it’s in the back of my mind, as an ultimate goal on clay. I really want to be able to build my form so I can peak in Paris,” he is quoted as saying by Eurosport.

“It’s still a long way. The clay-court season is quite long, you have pretty much every week some strong events and tournaments. Hopefully, I can start the clay season here in a positive way.

“I’m mainly focused on what I can deliver here and then of course moving into different weeks. But of course, Roland-Garros is an ultimate goal.”

Who can prevent Djokovic from securing the ultimate goal?

To win the French Open, Djokovic will likely have to get past King of Clay Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. The Spaniard has won a record 14 titles at Paris and he has an astonishing 112–3 record at the tournament.

What will be heartwarming for Djokovic is the fact that he is the only player to have beaten Nadal twice at Roland Garros with the first win coming in quarter-final in 2015 and the second in the semi-final in 2021.

The Spaniard, though, leads their head-to-head 9-2 in Paris.

But it is not just Nadal that will be a big test as the rising Carlos Alcaraz is now also considered one of the favourites on clay and last year he beat both Djokovic and Nadal en route to lifting the Madrid Open title. Alcaraz, though, has struggled with injury this year and he is yet to hit his straps in Paris.

The 2023 French Open will start on May 28 with the men’s final scheduled for Sunday June 11.

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic is simply relentless in his pursuit of excellence