Novak Djokovic in shock French Open setback after Carlos Alcaraz win

The 20-year-old Spaniard is having a stunning season.

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates his Madrid Open victory and Novak Djokovic during a press conference.
Carlos Alcaraz (pictured left) is set to overtake Novak Djokovic (pictured right) as the World No.1 heading into the French Open. (Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic is set to lose his World No.1 ranking to Carlos Alcaraz after the 20-year-old defended his Madrid Open title. Alcaraz hasn't been at his all-conquering best this week in Madrid, but the Spaniard celebrated his birthday week with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Jan-Lennard Struf in the final to become just the second player ever to defend the title after Rafa Nadal in 2013 and 2014.

Alcaraz has now defended both the Barcelona Open and Madrid Open and has won his second Masters 1000 event in 2023 following his Indian Wells triumph. And following his defence of the title, Alcaraz sits only five points behind Djokovic on the world rankings.

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Djokovic missed the Madrid Open after suffering an elbow injury in the build-up to the clay court season. He was knocked out in his second match in both the Monte Carlo Open and Srpska Open and is no certainty to take part in Rome.

However, Alcaraz only has to set foot on the court in Rome and play one match to overtake Djokovic and head into the French Open as the World No.1. While the ranking won't make a huge difference in Paris, it will mark the second time this year Alcaraz has grabbed the top spot off Djokovic.

And the No.1 next to his name would be apt with Alcaraz returning to the court in 2023 - having missed the Australian Open - in extraordinary form. It was Alcaraz's 29th win of the season, and 21st straight in Spain going back to a loss to Rafael Nadal in Madrid on his 18th birthday two years ago.

Alcaraz's other titles this year came in Buenos Aires and Indian Wells. He is the first player to win two Masters 1000 trophies this season.

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates with the Madrid Open title.
Carlos Alcaraz (pictured) is set to regain the World No.1 ranking after defending his Madrid Open title. (Photo by Atilano Garcia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The big-serving Struff was the first lucky loser to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final, having earned an unexpected spot in the main draw after another player had to drop out.

Tennis fans were quick to praise the 20-year-old sensation as he heads into the French Open as a strong favourite, considering the injuries to reigning champion Nadal and Djokovic.

Novak Djokovic under injury cloud ahead of French Open

With the tennis world waiting to see if Nadal will play Roland Garros, having missed the clay court season so far, Djokovic and Alcaraz remain the favourites for the grand slam. However, Djokovic has also been battling an injury cloud.

Ahead of the Monte Carlo Open and Srpska Open, Djokovic admitted he was struggling with a persistent elbow injury. "My elbow is not in an ideal shape but good enough to be ready for the first match," Djokovic told reporters ahead of the tournament.

"One of the good things in tennis is that you get new opportunity to prove your worth every week and take a step forward. I've turned over a new leaf."

And the World No.1 stunned fans when he withdrew from the Madrid Open without much of an announcement. "Novak Djokovic is unable to compete at the Madrid Open," the tournament wrote. "Wishing you a speedy recovery, we hope to see you back on court as soon as possible."

Fans now wait to see if Djokovic takes part in the Italian Open, which will mark the last warm-up event before the French Open.

with AAP

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