Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal news: Roland Garros key to GOAT race, says Patrick Mouratoglou

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic

The player who wins this year’s French Open will grab a big advantage in the race to be the greatest men’s tennis player of all time with Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou admitting Novak Djokovic and not Rafael Nadal might be the man to beat by the time Roland Garros arrives.

Nadal currently leads the battle for most majors after he became the first man to win 21 Grand Slams with his victory at the Australian Open edging him one ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The French Open is next Slam on the calendar and Mouratoglou says this year’s clay-court Grand Slam could play a huge role in the GOAT debate.

Could Novak Djokovic be crowned as the GOAT sooner than we expected?

“The clay season is going to be unbelievable. First there is going to be so much on the line because who wins Roland Garros is going to be the key,” the Frenchman told his YouTube channel.

“If it is Rafa then he is going to have two more Grand Slams than Novak. If it is Novak they go equal and Novak has better chance than Rafa on grass.

“This battle between those two for the number of Grand Slam titles is unbelievable so Roland Garros can be a key this season.

“If you look at the start of the season and the global situation, Novak has the lead for me. He is winning more Grand Slams than anyone every year so he is the huge favourite to win the most Grand Slams.”

There are a lot of sub plots ahead of the red dirt season as Djokovic will start his campaign undercooked as he has only played one tournament this year due to his vaccination status.

Meanwhile, Nadal is currently sidelined with a rib injury and will only return to action midway through the season, meaning he might not be in peak condition at Roland Garros.

Mouratoglou continued: “Because of this Covid story he [Djokovic] was not able to play for most of the year so he is lacking a lot of matches. On the other hand, Rafa gained so much confidence as Novak was not playing, he won almost everything.

“You had Novak with a big advantage [at the start] and with what happened, Rafa now has the edge, but then Rafa gets injured so he is not going to be able to play enough this year and then it comes back to a balance.

“If Novak is going to win everything until Rafa gets back from injury, that would be a game changer as then you would have Novak full of confidence back. But it won’t be easy when you don’t play matches like he did the past month – the little he played he lost early – it is not easy, even for Novak.

“What is going to happen in the next few weeks with Novak is going to give us a taste of the chances of Novak and Rafa at Roland Garros, which I said is the key.

“There might be a joker, who can maybe be [Carlos] Alcaraz, maybe Stefanos [Tsitsipas], maybe someone else, we will see.”

If all goes according to plan for Djokovic in the build-up to the French Open, then he should be the favourite and even if he does meet Nadal, then he will have the edge following his four-set win over the Spaniard in the semi-final last year.

“If you think about Roland Garros now, you can think it is the most open for the last 10 to 15 years,” Mouratoglou added.

“If Novak is able a lot between the start of the clay season and Roland Garros then it won’t be that open because Novak when he is at the top, even on clay, I think he is the best player in the world. I know it is weird to say that when you look at the number of Roland Garros titles Rafa has won. But if you look at the records Novak beat Rafa many times on clay and sometimes with tough scores.

“If they have to play each other at the last stages at Roland Garros the match of last year will count in the mind in the sense that Rafa is going to be tense, for sure, and Novak will be much more aggressive because he will feel more confident.”