Novak Djokovic has emerged as the favourite for the French Open, according to seven-time Grand Slam winner Mats Wilander. The Serb has a clear path to competing at Roland Garros with vaccine passports no longer required in France from March 14, and, after Rafael Nadal’s injury, is the clear favourite for the event, says Wilander.
Mats Wilander has backed Novak Djokovic to claim a 21st Grand Slam title at the French Open in May.
Djokovic appears free to defend his Roland Garros title after France relaxed its rules surrounding Covid vaccine passports.
Vaccine passports will no longer be required in France from March 14, with the French Open due to start on May 22.
And Wilander thinks that if Djokovic can get three tournaments under his belt, then the Serbian will enter the second Grand Slam of the year as the favourite.
“So he’s going to be well rested in his mind, in his heart,” said Wilander.
“Physically, he has been able to set up his training schedule perfectly, at least the way that he would want to.
“Of course, he would have liked to play more matches, but if he gets to three tournaments and maybe [plays] 10 to 15 matches, he goes into Roland Garros as maybe the favourite to win the tournament.”
Rafael Nadal – a 13-time winner of the French Open – saw his perfect 20-0 start to the season end at the hands of Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells final. The 35-year-old would later confirm that the breathing difficulties he suffered in that match were owing to a cracked rib.
The injury is expected to prevent him from practising for four weeks and will have serious implications on the clay season, and Wilander said that the injury adds to Djokovic’s candidacy as favourite and shows Nadal perhaps “pushed his body too much”.
“Now that Rafael Nadal is maybe not going to have the perfect preparation, Djokovic suddenly becomes the favourite,” he continued.
“But he most probably needs a little bit of confidence in some of the tournaments that leads up to the French.
“But that’s great news because we don’t want to see the rat race end with Rafa Nadal having a fractured rib, with Roger Federer having surgeries on his body and with Djokovic not being able to play tennis because of vaccination issues when it comes to Covid-19.
“So hopefully we can get all three of them back healthy in the right state of mind. And just for one tournament, I’d like to see the three of them play again. That’s going to be the biggest tournament of all time in the history of professional tennis.”
The French Open begins on May 22.