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Minus Rafael Nadal, the 2023 French Open will see a New Champion

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With Rafael Nadal out of the 2023 tournament, there is speculation that a new men’s singles champion will emerge from the French Open. Hard-core tennis fans will naturally bring up the name of Rafael Nadal, when it comes to predicting a potential French Open winner: he has totally dominated the only clay-court Grand Slam tennis tournament, since his debut in 2005, winning 14 of 18 tournaments.

There have only been four other French Open Men’s Singles champions during that time: Roger Federer won it in 2009, followed by Stan Wawrinka (2015) and Novak Djokovic (2016 and 2021). Roland-Garros is not, however, going to see Nadal win his 15th title: while the Spaniard is the reigning champion, he was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a left hip injury. It will be the first time for Nadal to miss the French Open since 2005.

The absence of the 36-year-old will open the door for another player to win the 2023 French Open. Djokovic is obviously going to be one of the main contenders – but the Serbian is apparently not in optimal form, as he has won no tournament since his 29 January success in the 2023 Australian Open. He fell short in Dubai Tennis Championship (semifinal), Monte-Carlo Masters (third round), Srpska Open (quarter-final), and Italian Open (quarter-final). Note that the last three are tournaments held on clay surfaces.

With Nadal out and Djokovic apparently suffering poor form, other “dark horse” candidates could stand out as a new champion. Current world number 1, Carlos Alcaraz, is one of them.

Alcaraz is doing great on the clay court. This year the 20-year-old Spaniard won the Argentina Open, the Barcelona Open and the Madrid Open.

Last year Alcaraz even made history, as he became the first player to ever beat Djokovic and Nadal back-to-back on clay. He did that at the quarter-final and semifinal, on the way to conquering the Madrid Open. The 2023 French Open is his first Slam since Alcaraz won the US Open back in September.

Alcaraz has gone 20-2 on clay in 2023. If he is in peak physical shape, it makes sense that he will be the favorite. Asked to compare the Alcaraz of today to the Alcaraz of a year ago, his coach, 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, began “As a person, I would say he’s more mature.”

Ferrero then followed this up with “As a player, I think he’s grown up, like, super-fast on the court. Let’s say he’s now able to read the matches a little bit better.” Holger Rune, seed number 6 in the 2023 French Open, is also a hot candidate. Rune is judged to perform well on clay courts. He won the French Open boys’ title in 2019.

Since April 2022, the 20-year-old Dane reached four ATP Finals – three on clay surfaces – and won two of them. Rune boasts clay court wins over Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, clearly making him a dangerous prospect at the tournament. “I think I am closer now to playing my best tennis,” said the current world number 6, as quoted by Eurosport. “I’ve been building up to this tournament with good performances over the season. I hope I can convert those performances into a trophy in Paris.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas, seed number 5 in the 2023 French Open, is also appraised as very good on clay courts, having reached six ATP Masters 1000 finals and won two – both on clay surfaces. Daniil Medvedev (seed number 2), Casper Ruud (4), and Jannik Sinner (8) are also worth mentioning. Ruud, for instance, is a 2022 French Open finalist.

Sinner has won 23 of his past 28 matches and reached three finals, and he has beaten both Alcaraz and Tsitsipas. Thus, numerous prospects will conspire to make the 2023 French Open the most profoundly-uncertain event in nearly two decades. Finally, this “Grand Slam” of tennis is ready to welcome a new champion – one from a new generation of players.

Martin Rino (686)