Novak Djokovic is chasing multiple records at this year's French Open
Paris (AFP) - Novak Djokovic launches his bid for a men’s record 23rd Grand Slam singles title on Monday, while Carlos Alcaraz also gets his French Open campaign under way.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look ahead at three stand-out matches of the second day of the 2023 tournament (x denotes seeded player).
Novak Djokovic (SRB x3) v Aleksandar Kovacevic (USA)
Two-time champion Djokovic starts his bid for history against unheralded American Kovacevic who is making his Grand Slam debut. Djokovic is attempting to win a men’s record 23rd Grand Slam title in the absence of injured 14-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal.
The 36-year-old has struggled for form and fitness on clay so far this season, though, failing to get past the quarter-finals in his three events on the surface.
He has slipped behind Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev in the rankings as a result.
“It’s no secret that one of the main reasons I play today and compete in professional tennis is to try to break more records and make more history in tennis,” said Djokovic.
The Serbian star would also tie Serena Williams’ overall Open-era record of most Slam titles with success in the final at Roland Garros.
Kovacevic has only won one match in the main draw of an ATP event so far this year.
Carlos Alcaraz (ESP x1) v Flavio Cobolli (ITA)
Carlos Alcaraz won his first Grand Slam title at the 2022 US Open
World number one Alcaraz also starts his tournament against a player who has never made the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament before.
Italian Cobolli, the world number 159, came through three rounds of qualifying to set up this meeting on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Alcaraz is playing a Grand Slam event for the first time since winning last year’s US Open, having missed the Australian Open due to a leg injury.
The 20-year-old Spaniard is the tournament favourite as he bids to improve on his showing 12 months ago when he lost to Alexander Zverev in the quarter-finals.
“I would say he’s better than last year. I think he has more experience,” Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero said on Sunday.
Alcaraz has never lost in the first round in any of his eight previous Grand Slam appearances.
Elina Svitolina (UKR) v Martina Trevisan (ITA x26)
Ukraine’s Svitolina will play her first match at a major event since the 2022 Australian Open after returning from maternity leave, having previously taken a break from the sport citing health problems and mental exhaustion following Russia’s invasion of her home country.
The former world number three is ranked 192nd but is playing on a protected ranking.
Svitolina won her 17th WTA title at the weekend in Strasbourg, beating Russian Anna Blinkova in the final. The pair did not shake hands after the match.
Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk was booed by the French crowd on Sunday for refusing to shake hands with Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.
Blinkova is a possible third-round opponent for Svitolina at Roland Garros.
The 28-year-old, a three-time French Open quarter-finalist, first faces a tricky opening match against Italy’s Trevisan who made a shock run to the last four in 2022.