Mats Wilander has highlighted some of the differences between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz ahead of the 2022 French Open while mentioning Roger Federer.
Alcaraz has stunned the tennis world with some of his electric play already so far this year and the rising star has been made the tournament favourite by many bookmakers ahead of Roland-Garros.
But despite being a slight injury doubt, Nadal remains on the entry list and cannot be underestimated as he attempts to follow up his remarkable Australian Open triumph earlier in the year with a record-extending 14th title in Paris.
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Wilander has already declared that world No. 1 Novak Djokovic "has to be the favourite" for the tournament and to draw level with his great rival Nadal on 21 Grand Slam singles titles, and he has also compared Alcaraz to the legendary Spaniard.
"I think Alcaraz has more variety," Wilander told Eurosport when comparing him with Nadal.
"I think that's what we are all a little bit surprised over, that he's able to play with a lot of variety, and of course, the variety for him is power, and then also finesse, drop shots.
"I mean, I don't really see him playing with the different spins on the backhand yet. Getting slices and hitting long and hitting flat. I don't think he's there yet, but in terms of the drop shots and the power, I think he probably knows more than Rafa knew at 19.
"I can understand Rafa more because he said 'this is how I play, and I'm going to find the best way to play the way I want to play, and I'm going to find the best way to play my opponent', whereas Alcaraz says a little bit more, 'okay, this is what I kind of need to do, the guy is far behind [the baseline], I'm going to hit some drop shots'.
"If you are too close to the baseline, then Carlos is going to play with power, and a little bit of height and push the guy back.
"So I think that Carlos is willing to do a few more things, but I'm not saying that that's better. Sometimes the simplest players, when they're young, are the ones that are the best because they don't have that many options, or they don't want to use that many options.
"I always had people ask me, ‘when did you learn to slice your backhand? Because in the end, you were slicing?’
"I'm like, ‘when did I learn to slice my backhand? When I was seven'. We just didn't use that shot until I got a little bit older. So I think Carlos is using a few more shots at a very young age than maybe Rafa was using and that no one else was using.
"Of course, Federer is a different animal, so it's very impressive that he's able to play with the variety that he plays with in terms of drop shots and power."
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On Djokovic being the favourite at Roland-Garros, Wilander made it abundantly clear that he believes the world No. 1 deserves that status.
“I think Novak has to be the favourite,” he said. "Winning in Rome will be huge for his confidence but Novak also has a feeling of revenge with everything that happened to him over the past few months that will give him strength.
“He is defending the French Open after not being able to play at the Australian Open so that’s huge as well. Now that he’s shown he can play tough matches, huge matches, even though he lost to Alcaraz in Madrid, he has shown he can play for a long time.
“In Monte Carlo, he looked bad in his match in the end with Davidovich [Fokina]. He looked bad, tired but suddenly now he looks much better.
“Djokovic is the clear number one in his own group but we know how good he is at dealing with pressure.
“Djokovic knows that he has memories of playing his best and memories of winning those big points. He has memories of trusting his own instincts and decisions and believing he is making the right decisions at the right times.
“He believes in the past, then the past will help him in the present time and that is where Novak has his strength. As soon as he believes he is making the right choices, then that’s when I believe he is back to being the best player in the world.
“I think he will be back at that point. I don’t think he is hitting the ball as well as he did in the past, I’m sure the confidence is not the same as it was in the past but I think if he believes in his own choices then he will be unstoppable."
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