Djokovic responds to Alcaraz defeat ahead of Roland-Garros

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Poland’s Iga Swiatek returns the ball to Turkey’s Ons Jabeur during their final match of the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

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This defeat against Carlos Alcaraz seems to have motivated Novak Djokovic to step up his game.

Just in time too.

A week after losing to 19-year-old Alcaraz in Madrid, Djokovic won the Italian Open without dropping a set on Sunday for his first title of the year.

Having missed much of the season because he was not vaccinated against the coronavirus, the top-ranked Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-0, 7-6 (5) for his sixth title in Rome.

From now on, Djokovic and Alcaraz must be considered as the big favorites for Roland-Garros, which starts next Sunday.

“I’m going there with the highest ambitions,” Djokovic said. “I really like my chances. … The way I’ve been feeling on and off the pitch for the past few weeks, I really think I can go far.

The status of Rafael Nadal, who has won 13 of his 21 Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros, remains uncertain after the Spaniard’s Italian Open ended earlier than expected when his chronically injured left foot started to swell again. disturb him.

“Right now Carlos Alcaraz or Novak Djokovic,” Tsitsipas said when asked to pick the French Open favorite – without even mentioning Nadal’s name.

As for the women, the big favorite is Iga Swiatek, the top-ranked Polish player who defended the women’s title in Rome by thrashing Ons Jabeur 6-2, 6-2 to extend her winning streak to 28 matches.

Swiatek was a surprise champion at Roland Garros in 2020 when ranked No. 54. Today, the 20-year-old Polish player takes Paris to a whole new level.

“I already know I’ve done some great things this season, so I feel like I can play freely,” Swiatek said. “For sure the expectations around are higher, but I’ve never had a problem cutting it off and not thinking about it. I’m also gaining experience in that area.

Swiatek won five straight titles during his run.

“All these tournaments that I’ve won seem pretty surreal right now,” she said.

Djokovic lost a decisive tiebreaker against Alcaraz in the semi-finals of the Madrid Open last weekend.

“It was a very tight game,” Djokovic said. “He deserved to win, but it was really a point that decided the winner. I was happy with the level I was playing at.

Djokovic’s experience – he has won 20 Grand Slams – could give him the edge on the list of favorites for Paris. Especially since Alcaraz has never gone beyond the quarter-finals of a major.

“Roland Garros is a marathon Grand Slam,” said Tsitsipas. “Every Grand Slam is a marathon Grand Slam, but specifically Roland Garros. It really gets the most out of you spiritually and physically when you’re on the court. The clay court (tennis) has this ability to really squeeze every part of you .

Djokovic, who was expelled due to his unvaccinated status ahead of the Australian Open, had not won a tournament since lifting the Paris Masters trophy in November.

“This year, it was a special situation. With everything that happened in Australia, it took time,” Djokovic said. “I found my best form here. I go to Paris with a lot of confidence.

It was Djokovic’s 12th final at Foro Italico.

“This court has always been very, very special,” he said. “It gave me joy when I really needed positive sensations. Whenever my form was a little down, I found energy in this city.

Swiatek kept her composure as she saved four break points at a crucial point late in the second set, sliding to a cushioning then responding with a splendid backhand volley winner on the final break point after a 19 shot rally.

“I kind of changed my attitude from ‘Whoa, she’s going to spread me now’ to ‘I’m going to go every ball now and play every point until the last shot.’

Jabeur was on her own streak with 11 straight final victories following her Madrid Open title last week, but the Tunisian’s shrewd game of drop shots and spins couldn’t hold up to the quick movement and stabbing. Swiatek accurate background.

“Iga is No. 1 for a reason,” Jabeur said. “She’s really the leader here on tour. Personally, I have a lot to learn from her.

The last player to win more consecutive games was Justine Henin, who won 32 in a row in 2007 and 2008. The longest streak of all time belongs to Martina Navratilova, who had a streak of 74 in 1984.

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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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