Novak Djokovic makes bold Rafael Nadal favourite claim as he assesses French Open rivals

Ewan West
Pre-match Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal before a match

Novak Djokovic has proclaimed that his great rival Rafael Nadal is “always the biggest favourite” as he assessed the leading contenders for the 2024 French Open title. 

The world No 1 also suggested he would rank himself as the second favourite after Nadal, while he argued there are “five players who are candidates to win.”

Djokovic has won three French Open titles, with his triumphs coming in 2016, 2021 and 2023, while Nadal has won an astonishing record of 14 Roland Garros crowns.

Nadal, who secured his maiden Grand Slam title at the 2005 French Open, holds a mind-blowing 112-3 record from his 18 appearances at the clay-court Major.

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The great Spaniard won his 22nd Grand Slam and most recent title at any level at the 2022 edition of Roland Garros, where he defeated Casper Ruud in the final. Nadal’s ability to play in the past two years has been severely restricted by injuries.

The 37-year-old has practised at Roland Garros ahead of this year’s event, which will begin on Sunday, but he is yet to confirm whether he will compete.

If Nadal does feature, it could be his final French Open appearance as he has revealed 2024 will likely be the final season of his career.

Djokovic, who is competing at this week’s Geneva Open ahead of his Roland Garros title defence, gave his thoughts on the favourites in Paris.

“This year is more open. Casper Ruud is surely one of the five players who are candidates to win,” the Serbian said in his pre-tournament press conference.

“You have Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas — all the players who won a Major tournament on this surface this year.

“But when you talk about Roland Garros and Nadal is there, he is always the biggest favourite for me. After everything he has done on the courts at Roland Garros court, it’s normal, respectfully to put him as the biggest favourite.

“Obviously it’s a little different with his level of play. But it’s Roland Garros and it’s Nadal. After that, maybe me, if I feel good, if I play well. At Roland Garros, and all the Grand Slams, I am a bit of a different player.”

Djokovic will face world No 85 Yannick Hanfmann, who downed Andy Murray in the first round, in his opening match at the ATP 250 tournament in Geneva today — on his 37th birthday. He would then meet either Denis Shapovalov or Tallon Griekspoor in the quarter-finals.

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