June 20, 2024
Rafael Nadal

Novak Djokovic admits he feels ‘worried’ heading into the 2024 French Open and doesn’t see himself as a favourite amid his poor run of form in tennis.

Djokovic heads into Roland-Garros as the top seed as the Serbian looks to clinch his 25th Grand Slam singles title, which would move him past Margaret Court.

The 37-year-old won three of the four major tournaments in 2023, including the French Open, but this year has been nothing short of disaster for Djokovic.

He has not lifted a single trophy in 2024 thus far, split with his coach Goran Ivanisevic and lost to the world No.123 at Indian Wells in March.
He looked to turn his form around in Rome – only to suffer his fastest defeat on clay, get hit by a water bottle and be booed off by spectators at the Italian Open.

Djokovic then decided to enter the Geneva Open to build up some form ahead of Roland-Garros but lost to world No.44 Tomas Machac.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic does not see himself as one of the favourites (Picture: Getty)

‘Of course I’m worried,’ Djokovic said ahead of his first-round match against French wildcard Pierre-Hugues Herbert at Roland-Garros.

‘I haven’t played well at all this year, apart from a few matches here and there. Things are what they are. I don’t see myself as a favourite in Paris.

‘I will try to take the matches one after the other. I didn’t have a great night (against Machac). I had horrible feelings during the first part of the match.

‘I don’t want to take any credit away from Tomas, who deserved his victory, but I don’t know what to think of this match. I prefer to forget it.

‘I don’t know how I was able to win the second set either. I was hoping to play more than one match when I came here, and I played three.

‘But I wish I could feel better. It’s not nice to suffer like that on the court. It’s hard to concentrate on tennis when you have other things on your mind. I just hope to be ready and in good health for Roland-Garros.’

Rafael Nadal receives French Open warning

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal has been handed a nightmare opening match (Picture: Getty)

Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal is set to play the French Open for the final time before retirement and the ‘King of Clay’ has been handed a nightmare opening match.

Nadal faces fourth-seed Alexander Zverev, one of the favourites to go all the way, who has been in hot form with his recent triumph at the Italian Open.

Mischa Zverev, the brother of Alexander, has fired a huge warning to the Spaniard and said: ‘Everyone asks me: Mischa, what do you think about the match?

‘Sascha could and should have won the 2022 match. And this time he will also win it because Rafa has become a little slower and his physical condition is no longer the same.

‘The shots remain the same, but the big question is whether he can do them playing five sets. I think that in the end the winner will be Zverev and I hope he finishes in three sets.’

Will Rafael Nadal be at his peak level?

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal has won the French Open 14 times, most recently in 2022 (Picture: Getty)

World No.4 Zverev says he is going into his match with Nadal with the mindset that his opponent is going to be ‘Peak Rafa Nadal at his absolute best’.

‘You are playing the statue,’ the German said. ‘I mean, you’re not playing the statue, you’re playing the actual person. But you are playing Rafa Nadal.

‘For me, in my mind, I’m going to play peak Rafa Nadal. That’s what I expect him to be. I expect him to be at his absolute best. I expect him to play the best tennis he’s played in a long time on this court.

‘There’s always been discussion. I mean, 2022 I remember he came into Roland Garros not winning Monte-Carlo, not winning Madrid, not winning Rome.

‘He came into this tournament, everybody was like, ‘Oh, he’s a big question mark, he’s this and that’ – he came and dominated the entire tournament.

‘So in my mind, I think he’s going to be peak Rafa Nadal. I think he’s going to be at his best, and that’s my mindset going into this match.’

Rafael Nadal impresses in Roland-Garros practice

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal is set to play the French Open for the final time (Picture: Getty)

World No.5 Daniil Medvedev practiced with Nadal this week and has warned Zverev that the 22-time major winner is playing at a very high level.

‘Honestly, he played well,’ the Russian said. ‘We didn’t play five sets, but he played well, better than in Rome or Madrid… We played a set and then some and he beat me. It will be interesting for me to see how he plays against Zverev because Rafa will always be Rafa.

‘He has won here 14 times and until he plays here and maybe even if he is not the favourite, he can perfectly win. It is a great event to play against Rafa at Roland-Garros, but it is a tough draw, it is reality.

‘I would say that really if you face him in the third or fourth round now that he has no ranking, it seems normal that it is something that could happen.

‘The first round would be tough against someone who has won 14 titles here, but it could be an interesting combination.

‘I trained with Rafa yesterday and he played quite well, much better than what I saw in Rome and Madrid. But training and playing a match is different. I’m going to be there watching the match and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m happy not to be the one playing with him in the first round.’

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