Five top contenders for the French Open men's crown
May 26 (Reuters) - Five top contenders for the men's singles title at the French Open, which starts on Sunday.
CARLOS ALCARAZ (SPAIN)
At the outset of the 2022 French Open, Carlos Alcaraz was everyone's favourite up-and-comer, dripping with potential and touted for greatness.
A year later, the Spaniard has surpassed all expectations, having won his maiden Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open and bagging back-to-back claycourt titles in Barcelona and Madrid in recent weeks.
The 20-year-old suffered a shock exit from the Italian Open at the hands of qualifier Fabian Marozsan earlier this month, after which he spoke of the need for a mental reset, but few would bet against the world number one resuming normal service in Paris.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC (SERBIA)
With an injured Rafa Nadal out of the picture, Novak Djokovic will be hoping to win his third French Open title and take his Grand Slam tally to a men's record 23.
However, the former world number one has had a less than ideal build-up to the tournament, suffering quarter-final defeats in Rome and Banja Luka, as well as a third-round exit in Monte Carlo and an injury-enforced withdrawal from Madrid.
"His quest is to be the best ever and win the most majors so right now it looks like he's the only guy left who could break more records," former Grand Slam champion John McEnroe told Eurosport.
"He's tied with Rafa so this is an opening."
HOLGER RUNE (DENMARK)
Rune won three singles titles last season and has been in fine form during the clay swing, reaching finals at Monte Carlo, Rome and Munich, where he won his fourth career title, dropping just one set in the process.
Despite being only 20, the Dane has an impressive resume and boasts claycourt wins over Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas, making him a dangerous prospect at the tournament.
DANIIL MEDVEDEV (RUSSIA)
Medvedev has always said that clay is his least favourite surface to play on, but the Russian might be tempted to change his mind after claiming his first-ever title on the surface at this month's Italian Open.
In a sign of his marked improvement on clay, the 27-year-old put in a masterful display to clinch a 7-5 7-5 victory over Denmark's Rune in Rome, indicating the former world number one may finally have the tools needed to go all the way in Paris.
"I think we can expect more from him ... all of a sudden, you say, 'wait a minute, he can play on clay, he's actually a great player on this surface'," McEnroe said of Medvedev.
"You have to see what the draw is and what it looks like in the first few rounds, the first week, but there's no reason to believe that he can't make a deep run or do well on clay to me."
CASPER RUUD (NORWAY)
Casper Ruud enjoyed a remarkable 2022, which included runners-up finishes at the French Open, U.S. Open and ATP Finals, and the Norwegian appeared set to make the step up to a first Grand Slam title.
This year began on a comparatively underwhelming note for Ruud, who was eliminated from the Australian Open in the second round and failed to string together back-to-back wins on hard courts in the first three months of the season.
However, his form has seen significant improvement in the clay swing, with a title win at Estoril in April and a run to the semi-finals in Rome giving him cause to believe.
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