Novak Djokovic, on the verge of giving up the throne of world No.1 to Carlos Alcaraz, was eliminated from the Masters 1000 in Rome, of which he was title holder from the quarter-finals on Wednesday, 6-2, 4-6, 6- 2 by another young nugget, the Dane Holger Rune, ten days from Roland-Garros (May 28-June 11).
In the women’s table, physical alert for Iga Swiatek: the world N.1 and trophy holder on Parisian clay gave up, hit in the right thigh according to the WTA, during the third set of her quarter-final against N .6 World Elena Rybakina.
The 21-year-old Pole gave up going 2-all in the third set, after winning the first 6-2 and losing the second in the tiebreak (7/3). It was during this tie-break, on a run in defensive position, that Swiatek seemed to be hurt.
Simple precaution with the approach of Roland-Garros or more serious injury? We will have to wait to learn more about what guided his renunciation.
Djokovic, crowned at the Australian Open in January but less successful since, will not arrive in Paris with the ideal preparation either, since in three tournaments on clay in 2023, he has accumulated only five victories for three losses.
At best, he won three matches in a row on ocher, in Rome precisely, and reached the quarter-finals. In Monte-Carlo and Banja Luka (Bosnia) before, he lost in his second match, again bothered by his right elbow which had made him suffer several years ago. In the meantime, he had preferred to zap Madrid.
Faced with Rune on Wednesday, under a persistent drizzle, he was a shadow of himself in the first set (35 unforced errors in total over the course of the match) and again called the doctor, without anyone knowing precisely for what reason.
But it takes more to instill doubt in the mind of the Serb with 22 Grand Slam trophies – like Rafael Nadal.
Is he still confident for Roland-Garros?
“Yes,” he says, laconic but smiling.
What does he still need in view of the Parisian Grand Slam?
“You’re welcome, replies the 35-year-old Serb. Well, just to train and prepare for the most important tournament of the season on clay. I know I can play better. I really want to work on the different aspects of my game, on the physical level, to arrive, I hope, at 100%.
“I still have my chances in the Grand Slam, best of five sets, against anyone, on any surface,” he explains confidently.
In the meantime, with Nadal, the absolute master of the place, who risks announcing his package for Roland-Garros on Thursday, and Djokovic without a title and with little rhythm, we say to ourselves that his 2023 edition promises to be the most open since a twenty years.
Rune wants a Grand Slam from 2023
What does Djokovic think?
“It depends on whether Nadal plays or not, he smiles. With him, of course Alcaraz (beaten in the 3rd round in Rome) and Rune are among the main favorites for the title”, he believes.
“It’s maybe more open than other years, it’s interesting, it makes things more fun. I want to win a Grand Slam this year, I’ve said it before and I’m sticking to it, obviously I hope succeed at Roland-Garros”, dares Rune.
At just 20 years old, the world No.7 obtained his second victory in a row against Djokovic in 2 hours and 18 minutes, after that in the final of the Masters 1000 in Paris in November.
“I like to challenge him. He’s a great player to play against because I can really see what I need to improve, what works. If it works against Novak, it works pretty much against everyone,” smiled the young Scandinavian.
For a place in the final, he will face world No.4 Casper Ruud.
In the last four, Rybakina will face the Latvian Jelena Ostapenko (20th), winner of Roland-Garros in 2017. The other semi-final will oppose the Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina (47th) and the Russian Veronika Kudermetova (12th).
Swiatek, a time in the lead 6-2, 4-2 before the return of Rybakina and his retirement, had until then had an almost ideal season on clay, his favorite surface, with a title in Stuttgart (Germany) and a final to Madrid.