THE SECOND tennis Grand Slam of the season will have an usual feel about it as defending French Open champion Rafa Nadal will not be in Paris due to the hip injury that’s stopped him playing for most of 2023.
Nevertheless, Murcia’s Carlos Alcaraz enters the tournament as world number one and top seed to carry high hopes of a Spanish name continuing to lift the trophy a fortnight on Sunday.
The French Open begins tomorrow but the 20-year-old from El Palmar won’t play until Monday with his first round match against Australian qualifier Christopher O’Connell- ranked 85th in the ATP rankings.
O’Connell has never played the tournament favourite before and has lost in both his previous two appearances at Roland Garros.
It’s the first time that Alcaraz, who won the US Open last September, has been seeded as number one at a Grand Slam.
He has though been given a tough draw, with Stefanos Tsitsipas potentially waiting for him in the quarter-finals, and then a semi-final meeting with Novak Djokovic, who is looking to win his 23rd slam.
Most neutrals would have liked to see them clash in the final, but the Serbian was knocked down to third in the rankings by Russia’s Daniil Medvedev after he recorded his first-ever ATP clay court title win in Rome.
There are seven other Spanish players in the draw including 19-year-old Roberto Bautista from Castellon who will take on China’s Yibing Wu in the first round.