Rafael Nadal the Roland Garros favourite, but Novak Djokovic ‘can beat anyone’, says Goran Ivanisevic

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the end of the match

Novak Djokovic was not ready to take on Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros last year, but he can “beat anyone” this year if he is mentally and physically ready, according to the world No 1’s coach Goran Ivanisevic.

Djokovic and Nadal have met at the French Open the past three years with the latter defeating his great rival in three sets in the 2020 final before the Serbian turned the tables the next year as he won in four sets en route to winning a second title in Paris.

Nadal, though, got another one over Djokovic last year as he won their quarter-final in four sets before going on to lift a record-extending 14th title at Roland Garros.

If both are fit and playing, then they could meet again in Paris this year and Ivanisevic is confident Djokovic will be ready following a difficult build-up to the 2022 French Open for the Serbian.

Djokovic was undercooked last year as he missed the Australian Open and the Sunshine Double due to his unvaccinated status with his season only really getting underway in April.

“First of all, nothing is comparable to last year, a year no ordinary human being would ‘survive’,” Ivanisevic told Tennis Majors.

“After everything that happened in Australia, he was sick and stuck to his bed for 10 days before the clay court season.

“In Monte Carlo, he could barely breathe, it was a bit better in Belgrade, and then he started to play better – Madrid, Rome, all the way to the Roland Garros quarter-final [against Nadal]. To be honest, I still don’t know what happened there, I still find that match a bit odd.

“Novak just wasn’t mentally ready to fight [Rafael] Nadal, who was the better player and deserved to win.

“So this year, the most important thing is to stay healthy and to prepare really well physically.

“Of course, our main focus is Roland Garros, he needs to be ready to give it his all there.

“He can do it. Nadal is the favourite on clay as long as he can walk, but if Novak is mentally up for it, he can beat anyone.”

Although his 2023 season has also been disrupted, Djokovic has had a better start to the year than Nadal as he won the Adelaide International and a 10th Australian Open title with his Melbourne Park trophy helping him to draw level with the Spaniard on 22 Grand Slams.

Nadal, meanwhile, lost a couple of matches at the United Cup and then suffered a shock second-round defeat at the Australian Open. He is yet to play since losing in Melbourne as he is currently recovering from a hip injury.

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