The good, the fat, the most substantial part of this tour on clay is coming up – the landing at Roland Garros starting on the 22nd – and Novak Djokovic's fangs are beginning to grow suspiciously.
The Serbian parades there with his chin raised and a serious rictus, brilliant in the last task (double 6-2 to Stanislas Wawrinka, in 1h 14m) and determined to convey that what he proclaimed last week in Madrid, where he reached the semifinals of the tournament, it was not talk and much less a bluff.
Nole is on the "good road to come back", getting sharper and fitter, and in case anyone doubted who he is or how far he can go, there is his bag to refresh the memory of amnesiacs.
On one back, 37 emoticons with a smiling face, coming to remember the trophies of the Masters 1000 that he has conquered –380 victories in said territory, for only 83 defeats– and, above all, that he is there again, hungry and salivating, wanting to burn off all that “fuel” he accumulated after the unfortunate episode in Australia earlier in the season.
His landing on clay was an unknown, with only four games in his legs and jammed, but three weeks have been enough to certify that the "old cars" that Rafael Nadal described these days -taken down last night by Denis Shapovalov, resentful in addition to the foot – it doesn't take much for them to start and show their potential.
The Serbian (34) is on it.
Nadal, or a lifetime among the top five
Final in Belgrade, semifinal in the Caja Mágica and, for now, the quarterfinals in the Foro Italico;
a level to which the number one is accustomed, owner of five titles (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2020) and always present (16 participations) in the antepenultimate round of the Roman tournament.
Now, the present forces him to take another step, to climb at least one more rung;
otherwise, the Belgrade would lose the throne and take another blow before traveling to the Bois de Boulogne.
If he does not reach the semifinals, Djokovic would go down a step and Daniil Medvedev, who has not competed since March 31 due to a herniated disc, would return to settle in a space that the Balkan – 369 weeks at the top, historical record – feels like own.
It already happened this year, on February 24, when Nole gave in to Jiri Vesely in Dubai and the Russian climbed to the top for the first time.
A temporary transition.
Only three weeks later, the 20-big champion regained control, which is back on the air again, subject to the fact that this Friday (not before 8:30 p.m., Movistar Deportes) he progresses and beats the Canadian Felix-Auger Aliassime (6 -3 and 6-2 to Marcos Giron).
Heads or tails, neither more nor less.
Two steps away from 1,000 wins
”I have never played against him?
Interesting, I thought so.
Although clay is not his favorite surface, he has been working with Toni Nadal for a couple of years, so he has improved.
We will play at night, the conditions will be different, but the schedules are what they are...”, he stated this Thursday, aware that a victory against Aliassime would guarantee him retain number one and that it would place him one step away from another number stratospheric, round where they are.
In the event that he managed to reach the final on Sunday, Djokovic, 998 wins in 19 seasons as a professional, would reach 1,000.
"I'm very happy with my game, but I can still improve," says the Serbian, always aware of the numbers and records, without dissimulation.
He wants it all and now he once again feels the threatening shadow of Medvedev, who, paradoxes of tennis, could achieve the
without having stepped on the court for a month and a half;
not so that of the German Alexander Zverev, who beat Alex de Miñaur (6-3 and 7-6(5) and today faces Cristian Garin, knowing since last week that he will not occupy the throne, since to achieve it he should have won in Madrid – where he could not beat Carlos Alcaraz in the final – and repeat success in Rome.
The cotton test
"I know I can always play better," he insists.
"But at the same time, being realistic, I think my level has gone up and it's really high right now," adds the
, well aware that Roland Garros, it's no secret, begins to be played every year at the Foro Italico, stocks or shuttle depending on performance.
The last test of cotton.
Underground, Paris passes through Rome, a more appropriate scenario than Madrid (at 657m altitude) to gauge the real state of the players.
The tennis players maneuver and position themselves, and in some cases like that of Nadal, eliminated by Shapovalov in the round of 16, the parade is a step backwards.
The defeat of the Spaniard, fourth in the
so far, will cause him to lose a position with Monday's update.
The beneficiary will be the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Karen Khachanov (4-6, 6-0 and 6-3).
A fundamental nuance in the face of the draw for the great Frenchman, since
it would harden a hypothetical quarterfinal match for the Spanish.
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