Carlos Alcaraz heads into a Grand Slam as the top seed for the first time at the French Open, with the absence of holder Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic’s fitness struggles offering him the chance to win a second major and cement his No 1 status.
The 20-year-old Spaniard missed the Australian Open after being sidelined for three months due to abdominal and hamstring injuries but he has been making up for lost time, winning in Buenos Aires on his return and taking two more claycourt titles in Barcelona and Madrid.
Alcaraz, who became the youngest world No 1 last year following his US Open triumph, leapfrogged Djokovic into top spot once again despite being stunned in the Rome third round by Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan earlier this month.
Barring that blip, Indian Wells champion Alcaraz has been the player to beat on the circuit, with his athleticism and warrior spirit reminiscent of fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who will skip Roland Garros this year due to injury.
Former French Open runner-up Alex Corretja said the absence of 14-time champion Nadal could place even more expectation on Alcaraz but he backed the youngster to deliver at the May 28-June 11 Grand Slam.
“All eyes will be on him and on Novak and all the other potential favourites but being Spanish and knowing that Rafa is not going to be there, all the attention is going to be on him on the men’s side,” Corretja told Eurosport.
“Knowing Alcaraz, he will be okay to deal with that, I’m sure. He loves that, which is amazing and very impressive, but he’ll need to cope with all the attention and everyone asking him about being the favourite and the next Spanish winner.
“Losing in Rome was the best thing that could have happened to him, because he will have lost a bit of expectation and relaxed a little bit.”
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