Tennis

Mats Wilander: ‘Novak Djokovic is the favorite, ahead of Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem’

Mats Wilander: 'Novak Djokovic is the favorite, ahead of Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem'

The third and final Major of the season starts at Roland Garros in a couple of hours, in uncharted waters for all the players in the draw! Unlike in June, Roland Garros takes place at the end of September due to a coronavirus, hosting a small crowd and leaving the competitors to deal with the cold, wind, rain and new Wilson balls.

The favorites should be safe and dry under the roof of the brand-new Court Philippe-Chatrier, but everything else is pretty much unknown until we see the first Sunday’s encounters. The 12-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal is concerned about the weather and new balls, feeling eager to give his 100% but waiting for the first match to draw conclusions.

The 2nd seed opens the campaign against Egor Gerasimov, looking good to reach the quarters in the bottom draw and face the US Open finalist Alexander Zverev in the battle for the semis. If he advances into the last four, Rafa should face the US Open champion and a two-time Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem, the most formidable rival at the moment alongside Novak Djokovic.

For Mats Wilander, these three are favorites to lift the trophy in two weeks, putting Novak Djokovic above Nadal and Thiem. The Swede believes Novak Djokovic has found an identity after that US Open default, heading to Paris with a lot of confidence after lifting the 36th Masters 1000 crown in Rome and seeking the 18th Major trophy.

The Serb is 31-1 so far in 2020, suffering the only loss following that default at the US Open and lifting four ATP trophies and the ATP Cup for Serbia in January. Novak’s only Roland Garros crown came in 2016 when he defeated Andy Murray in the final to accomplish a Career Grand Slam.

In the last three years, Novak had failed to reach the final in Paris, losing twice to Dominic Thiem and once to Marco Cecchinato, feeling motivated to fix that in the next two weeks and fight for the trophy again.

Mats Wilander puts Novak Djokovic ahead of Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem.

“Novak might be the best player of all time, and now we have an identity – he’s a little bit the bad boy.

I think he’s getting a lot of respect for caring as much as he does, and I think it helps him. If he can forget the final and take the win and tell himself: ‘I don’t know what happened that day, but I played great for six matches, I fought hard in the final and managed to bring home the trophy.’

Novak, Rafa and Dominic are the three favorites; I would put Novak slightly ahead of the other two. But these are the perfect conditions for Thiem. He can hit through a heavy clay court. I think he’s going to be extremely dangerous,” Mats Wilander said.

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