Novak Djokovic gives verdict on Roger Federer’s French Open chances

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Novak Djokovic gives verdict on Roger Federer's French Open chances



Federer will be back at Roland Garros (Picture: TNS via Getty Images)Roger Federer may not have played a clay-court match for three years but Novak Djokovic still believes he is capable of winning the French Open this season.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has not appeared at Roland Garros since 2015 but is due to return to the dirt this year.
His first stop will be in Madrid before heading to Paris for the second major tournament of the season.
Djokovic – the winner of the past three Grand Slams – will surely enter the clay-court Slam as the second favourite behind Rafael Nadal – the 11-time champion on the Parisien crushed brick – but the Serb warned that 2009 winner Federer can still be a contender.
Asked if it was realistic for Federer to win the French Open this year, he replied: ‘I think so.

Djokovic gave his verdict (Picture: Getty)‘I mean, certainly other Slams more than Roland Garros for Roger are, so to say ‑ he has more chance to win other slams than Roland Garros, but he has won Roland Garros in the past. He hasn’t played it obviously last year or last few years, but, you know, it’s hard to speak about Roger’s level because it’s always there. It’s always at its highest.
‘I really, aside of maybe one year where he changed a racquet and dropped to I think No., whatever, 7, 8, and then he was injured for five, six months, dropped his ranking to out of 15, those maybe two times in the last 15 years have been maybe where I saw him play 10, 20% worse than he’s playing on the level that he’s playing on all the time.
‘So it’s always expected in a way from my side when I see him, when I see him play, compete on any level on any surface that he’s going to be at his best, that he’s always going to be one of the candidates or favourites to win any tournament.
‘Really, I can’t talk about Roger in any other instance, you know, regardless of the surface.’
Federer has not played a clay event since Rome 2016, with last year’s French Open finalist Dominic Thiem defeating him in his last clay-court match, and there will be question marks over his ability to adapt to a notoriously tricky surface to compete on.

Federer impressed at Indian Wells and Miami (Picture: Getty Images)Thiem has already given Federer his backing and Djokovic thinks he’s recent success in Indian Wells and Miami will stand him in good stead for the dirt.
‘I mean, I thought tennis was missing him definitely on clay last year,’ Djokovic confessed. ‘Personally I think most of the people understood why he decided to skip the clay court season last year, and I also understand why he wants to play. Definitely for our sport it’s better that he plays. We’re looking forward to see him.
‘I mean, he’s been playing some great tennis lately. You know, Indian Wells, Miami, he’s won two out of three. Played finals, Indian Wells. It’s as good as it gets.
‘Of course, it’s different surface, but Indian Wells, you know, the ball bounces quite high there, which kind of imitates the clay, so, I mean, he dealt with that high balls really well throughout his career, so I don’t see any particular big issue for him playing on this surface.
‘He won French, he won all the big ones. He is who he is, so you always expect highest from him.’
There are three Masters 1000 events before Roland Garros, including the Monte Carlo Masters this week, and Djokovic admitted it would be ideal to win at least one of those events in the build-up to this year’s French Open.
‘Yes and no,’ he smiled when asked if he needed to win one of the Masters tournaments in Monte Carlo, Madrid or Rome.

Djokovic was in a relaxed mood (PiGetty Images)‘It would be definitely better to approach Roland Garros with a win of one of the big three clay court events prior to French Open, but at the same time, I have had great Roland Garros tournaments in the past where I maybe didn’t win any of the big ones before.
‘Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to affect completely my state of mind approaching Roland Garros, but it would definitely serve the confidence better if I have won one coming into Paris.’
Of course, for Djokovic, his eyes will be on the prize as he bids to hold all four Slam titles at once for the second time in his career, and it’s no secret what the biggest obstacle will be in his path.
‘Other than one guy, sure, it’s always open,’ he said. ‘I think Rafa always is a very clear favourite on any clay court in the world, and it doesn’t change. He’s still there. I mean, obviously depends how he’s feeling physically. You know, I have seen him play here, so he’s been here a few days. Seems like he’s fine.
‘You know, if he’s physically fit, he’s definitely the No. 1 guy, you know, on this surface without a doubt. And then, you know, after him it’s quite open.

Nadal remains the favourite (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)‘You know, I think [Alexander] Zverev has done very well on clay in the last few years. Dominic Thiem, of course. Roger is going to play, as well, this season. That’s great for tennis. I think it is pretty open.
‘Yes, I mean, for sure, beating Rafa in Roland Garros would be ‑ and he’s one of the ultimate challenges of the sport, as it is winning against Roger in Wimbledon, yeah.
‘I have been fortunate to experience both, so, you know, it is quite a special feeling, because they have dominated those surfaces so much in their careers.’
Djokovic’s victory over Nadal at Roland Garros – in the 2015 edition – came in the quarter-finals. It was a rampant straight sets win for the eventual runner-up.
And it was clear that he would relish the opportunity to take him on again in the tournament finale, having been beaten by the Spaniard at that stage on two previous occasions.
‘In the final of Roland Garros? Yeah, okay. Okay. So there you go,’ he concluded. ‘You answered the question. That would be the match of the season, yes.’
More: Tennis

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