Novak Djokovic will release any pent up frustration from his undignified U.S. Open exit on his opponents during the French Open and is favourite to claim his second Roland Garros title, says former champion Mats Wilander.
The 33-year-old Serb looked odds-on to win the title at Flushing Meadows but was defaulted during his fourth round against Pablo Carreno Busta after inadvertently hitting a line judge in the throat with a ball.
It was the only blemish in a year in which Djokovic, the world number one, has assembled a 33-1 record and deprived him of the chance to reach 18 Grand Slam titles, one behind Rafa Nadal who will be gunning for a 13th French Open crown. He recovered his poise to win the Rome Masters title and Wilander says Djokovic will use the pain of his U.S. debacle to inflict maximum damage on the Parisian clay.
“I think Novak has kept it inside and thought I’m going to take revenge on the situation, on life and on myself,” Eurosport expert and seven-time Grand Slam champion Wilander told Reuters.
“He said he would take a look at himself from inside, and he apologised. I think his way of apologising is to go and kick everyone’s butt. He has already done it in Rome and now Paris in late September/October he’ll think that claycourt is going to be absolutely perfect for me.”
While Nadal has owned Roland Garros since winning his first title there in 2005, the fact the tournament is being played when the courts are less lively than in the early summer means it should suit baseline-hugging Djokovic’s power and precision.
“He’ll have to fight hard because the points will be long and heavy but I can’t imagine anyone being more prepared for a slowish claycourt than Novak,” Wilander said. “I think Novak is a slight favourite, it means so much. If he gets to 18 and Nadal is 19 then you would think he has a good chance then to get in front.”
Roger Federer, who will miss the tournament, leads the way with a men’s record 20 Grand Slam titles.