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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, May 11, 2023


World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz share the same draw for the first time this week in Rome and both are aiming for a rematch.

Photo credit: Mutua Madrid Open Facebook

Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz are trading places again—and welcome a time-share in Rome.

Last week, Alcaraz celebrated his 20th birthday by successfully defending his Mutua Madrid Open championship.

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That Madrid title run will propel the second-ranked Spaniard past the top-ranked Djokovic back to world No. 1 after Rome ends.

This week in Rome, the pair reside at opposite ends of the field sharing the same draw for the first time this season.

"It is strange that we haven't been in the same draw since the beginning of the season," Djokovic told the media in Rome. "Due to the circumstances on both sides, that didn't happen.

"I mean, he's going to be No. 1 after this tournament whatever happens. Deservedly so. He's been playing some very impressive tennis, a great level. He's the player to beat on this surface, no doubt."

Tennis Express

The champions have been trading the top spot and defending champion Djokovic hopes they'll share the stage in the Rome final. If they do, it would be just their second career clash and first since the 2022 Madrid semifinals.

In that match, Alcaraz out-dueled Djokovic 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) rising to his maiden Mutua Madrid Open final in a dizzying three hour, 35-minute classic match.

Alcaraz made history as the first man to conquer king of clay Rafael Nadal and Djokovic in succession at a clay-court tournament.

Australian Open champion Djokovic said both are eager for a rematch.

"We faced each other only once last year in Madrid. If we get a chance to face each other here, would be in finals," Djokovic told the media in Rome. "I think we would both love to play in the finals.

"Let's see. It's a long tournament. There's a lot of great players. It's a buildup for me and for him coming into this tournament and also French Open."

Alcaraz, the youngest ATP year-end world No. 1 in history, told the media in Miami the best way to settle the No. 1 question is on the court.

"I agree with him. When he's 100 percent, probably he's one of or the best player in the world," Alcaraz said of Djokovic. "So I don't know how to say about that question, but what Novak has achieved, the level of Novak for example in Australia was unbelievable, really high.

"So as I said before, I really want to play against Novak when he's 100 percent and I'm sure I'm going to enjoy. So that's all I can say right now."

The top-seeded Djokovic has been practicing without the sleeve around his right elbow he wore in his last event and said he feels fit ahead of his Rome return.

"I feel good. I miss competition. I love playing in Rome," Djokovic said. "Historically throughout my career, Rome has always been a very nice tournament for me, had plenty of success, won it many times. Played also quite a few times in finals. My most successful clay court event and the biggest one coming into French Open.

"Hopefully it can serve, again, as a great, great springboard for me to what's coming up in Paris where I want to play my best."


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