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Casper Ruud and Dominic Thiem have snubbed Novak Djokovic for Rafael Nadal as they discussed the upcoming French Open. Both men have been runners-up at Roland Garros and believe the Spaniard is still the favourite to win a 15th title on the Parisian clay despite his recent injury woes. But they both also backed Djokovic to win the other two Majors this year, sharing their hopes for the pair to face off in the French Open final.
Djokovic and Nadal are both currently out of action with the world No 1 unable to enter the United States to play the Indian Wells and Miami Masters while the Spaniard is injured. While both men are unable to play until the clay season – with the Serb set to return in Monte Carlo while it is expected Nadal will also make his comeback on his favourite surface – two of their young rivals have tipped them for more Grand Slam success this year.
Ruud and Thiem discussed Djokovic and Nadal’s hopes in a new Eurosport podcast, with the Norwegian saying: “I don’t know, I still feel like if Dominic or I shouldn’t root for ourselves, I think we both can say that we wouldn’t be surprised if Rafa came up with some ridiculous level once again.”
The world No 4 was expecting Nadal to use his current injury layoff to prepare for his most successful tournament and backed him to win in Paris even if he wasn’t as strong in the preceding clay-court events. Ruud added: “It wouldn’t surprise me, because he will probably use these weeks and these months as he is preparing for exactly, you know, Roland Garros.
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“You know, it doesn’t matter if he loses in Monte Carlo or if he loses in Rome or Madrid. The only thing that is probably on his mind these days is just to be fit, be healthy and be ready for Roland Garros.”
Meanwhile, Thiem thought that both Djokovic and Nadal were more vulnerable to opponents than they used to be but wanted to see them face off at the French Open. “I have the feeling that there are many players now who can beat those two guys,” the former world No 3 said.
“There are great guys there, but obviously, also those two, three when Roger [Federer] was there, they were still one level above all the others, especially in the Slams, especially when it came to the best-of-five. For the whole tennis world it would be nice to see one last showdown in Roland-Garros, obviously, but Novak will still be the man to beat in the Grand Slams in 2023.”
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While the 2020 US Open champion was backing the former world No 1 at Wimbledon and the US Open, he was fully behind Nadal for the French. He added: “The only tournament is Roland Garros: if Rafael is fit there, it’s exactly the opposite. He’s the man to beat, obviously, when he won the tournament 14 times, it’s crazy.
“But if you see the performance of Novak at the Australian Open, which was incredible, he’s going to be probably the favourite at Wimbledon and the US Open as well.”
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