Opportunity knocks as Rafael Nadal misses French Open for first time since 2005

By Sports Desk May 24, 2023

Tony Blair was in Downing Street, Carlos Alcaraz a baby and Twitter and Instagram non-existent the last time the French Open took place without Rafael Nadal.

But the Spaniard will be at Roland Garros in statue form only this year after giving notice that the end of one of the great sporting careers is looming.

Nadal’s record on the Parisian clay is absurd – since winning on his debut in 2005, he has lifted the title 14 times, lost three matches and withdrawn mid-tournament once.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Rafa Nadal (@rafaelnadal)

The dynamic will undoubtedly be different without him and, for those players now seeing an opportunity, how they handle the situation will go a long way to determining who walks away with the trophy.


Novak Djokovic takes over favourite status given his history at the tournament – two titles and four more finals – and the 22 slam titles he has already won.

The Serbian turned 36 this week and, although he has shown many times – including at the Australian Open this year – that he can fight through physical issues to win slams, there are major question marks about the state of his right elbow.

Djokovic has suffered defeats to Lorenzo Musetti, Dusan Lajovic and Holger Rune on clay this season but still spoke bullishly about his chances in Paris.

“I know I can always play better,” he said in Rome. “Definitely I am looking forward to working on various aspects of my game, of my body, hopefully getting myself in 100 per cent shape. That’s the goal.

“I always like my chances in grand slams against anybody on any surface, best-of-five (sets).”

Djokovic is increasingly mounting a one-man defence against the younger generation, and 20-year-old Alcaraz reclaimed the world number one ranking from him this week.

Rune, also 20, has established himself as a big-time talent over the past six months while 21-year-old Jannik Sinner is having the best season of his career.

Only Rome champion Daniil Medvedev is within a decade of Djokovic in the top 10, and the Serbian said: “A new generation is here already. Alcaraz is number one in the world. Obviously he’s playing amazing tennis. I think it’s also good for our sport that we have new faces, new guys coming up. It’s normal.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Cameron Norrie (@norriee)

“We’ve been saying this for years, that we can expect it to come, that moment when you have a shift of generations. I’m personally still trying to hang in there with all of them. I’m, of course, very happy with my career so far. I still have the hunger to keep going. Let’s see how far I’m going to play.”


On the women’s side, a top three has emerged this season, with Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka and Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina closing the gap to world number one Iga Swiatek.

The Pole remains a class act on clay in particular but is certainly not as clear a favourite as 12 months ago, when her second French Open title came as part of a 37-match winning run.

The best hope for a strong British run once again is Cameron Norrie, whose top-16 ranking ensures he will avoid other top players in the early rounds.

The withdrawals of Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu are a blow but 21-year-old Jack Draper has recovered from an abdominal problem in time and will look to show his potential on the big stage again.

Related items

  • Alcaraz turns focus to Queen's and Wimbledon after French Open glory Alcaraz turns focus to Queen's and Wimbledon after French Open glory

    Carlos Alcaraz is not wanting to dwell on his French Open triumph as the Spaniard prepares for Wimbledon by featuring at the Queen's Club Championships this week.

    The 21-year-old secured his third major title this month after overcoming Alexander Zverev in a five-set final thriller at Roland-Garros.

    Alcaraz is the youngest player in the Open Era to win the singles title at three different grand slams, with the Australian Open the only one missing from the set.

    The world number two has one thing on his mind, however, as Alcaraz turns his focus to the grass-court challenge awaiting at Queen's, and subsequently the next major Wimbledon.

    "We have to be focused on the tournament that we are playing right now," Alcaraz said. "Roland-Garros was a fantastic two weeks for me, a dream come true lifting the trophy.

    "But right now my mind has to be here on the grass to be ready. As soon as I can to play good tennis and to get ready for Wimbledon.

    "Right now my focus is on the grass and then after that, my mind will be on clay again to be at my best for the Olympics."

    Just a year ago, Alcaraz headed to Queen's with only four ATP wins on grass.

    A year later, the big-hitting youngster is getting ready to defend his title in the Wimbledon warm-up tournament before attempting to go back-to-back at the next major.

    "I have more matches in my bank on grass and now with the great run I had last year at Queen's and Wimbledon, I know a little bit on how to play and understand the game a little bit on grass," he added.

    "I am more mature playing on this surface. The first practice I have done here, my movement wasn't as good as last year but it is a slow process, so I have to be really focused in every practice and every match."

    Alcaraz took the fewest main draw appearances of any player in the Open Era to win titles on grass, clay and hard courts.

    He celebrated that French Open glory with a tattoo of Paris' Eiffel Tower on his left ankle, before jetting off for further toasts to his success.

    Asked on his plans after Paris, Alcaraz said: "I had a few days off. I went to Ibiza with a group of friends. I had fun. It was a great time celebrating Roland Garros and I just had fun.

    "For me as a player, I need this kind of thing. Every player is different but for me to reach my best tennis I have to separate the professional part from the personal part.

    "I have some days off to forget a little bit that I am a professional player. Being with my friends and family means I can rest a little bit."

  • Sabalenka confirms she will not compete at Paris Olympics Sabalenka confirms she will not compete at Paris Olympics

    Aryna Sabalenka has confirmed she will not compete at the Olympic Games in Paris next month in order to prioritise her health. 

    The world number three retained her Australian Open title at the start of the year but suffered defeat in the quarter-finals of the French Open at Roland-Garros.

    The Belarusian's loss was her first before the semi-final stage of a major tournament since 2022, and she intends to rest ahead of the for the hard-court season which begins at the US Open 22 games after the Olympics. 

    "I prefer to have a little rest to make sure physically and health-wise I'm ready for the hard courts," said Sabalenka, who was the runner-up last year in New York. 

    "Especially with all the struggles I've been struggling with the last months, I feel I have to take care of my health.

    "It's too much for the scheduling and I made the decision to take care of my health."

    Sabalenka is currently in Germany preparing for the Berlin Open, and faces Daria Kasatkina in the last 16 of the competition, having come from a set down to beat Marta Kostyuk on Monday. 

  • Medvedev survives early scare to beat Borges at Halle Open Medvedev survives early scare to beat Borges at Halle Open

    Daniil Medvedev secured his spot in the next round of the Halle Open after fending off a valiant Nuno Borges in straight sets.

    The world number five prevailed 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 on Monday to bounce back from his round-of-16 exit to Alex de Minaur at Roland-Garros.

    Medvedev found himself behind early on as Borges won an early break point, but the Russian roared back to win the tiebreak 7-4.

    Borges continued to match his opponent in the second set, but the former world number one showcased his endurance and class, finishing the contest in style to secure his place in the round of 16. 

    Medvedev will now face Zhizhen Zhang after his win over Sebastian Ofner earlier in the day. 

    Data Debrief: Med goes two for two

    This duo first met at this year's Australian Open, with Medvedev winning on that occasion too.

    It was a tight encounter this time around, as Medvedev was forced to save five break points, while also striking nine aces, but he made it two straight wins against Borges.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.