Novak Djokovic jokes about ‘romantic long-distance rivalry’ to replace duo

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Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz could meet for the first time in 2023 in the Rome Masters final later this month. And Djokovic has opened up on watching the Spanish superstar’s meteoric rise from a distance as he prepares to hand over his status as world No 1 in the Italian capital.

The ATP ranking-topping duo have only ever met on the court once before in last year’s Madrid Masters.

A day after toppling Rafael Nadal, Alcaraz came out on top with a narrow 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 victory on his way to lifting his second Masters 1000 title.

But while dominating the Tour and picking up several trophies in the process, Djokovic and Alcaraz haven’t crossed paths since.

That could change in Rome, with the pair on a collision course to meet in the May 21 final if they reach the showpiece of their last warm-up tournament for the French Open.

And when asked about his long-distance rivalry with the 20-year-old, Djokovic joked: “Sounds romantic.”

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He then added that he considered Alcaraz one of the favourites for the French Open and hailed his form going into the season’s second Grand Slam.

But the Rome Masters is the more pressing matter, and Djokovic would welcome the chance to make their distance relationship much closer in the final.

“Of course, it depends if Nadal is going to play in French Open or not. But Alcaraz is one of the top favourites without any dilemma. He’s been playing fantastic tennis,” Djokovic explained.

“We faced each other only once last year in Madrid. If we get a chance to face each other here, it would be in the final. I think we would both love to play in the final.

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“Let’s see. It’s a long tournament. There are a lot of great players. It’s a build-up for me and for him coming into this tournament and also the French Open.

“Yeah, that’s all I can say on the distance relationship. I leave the imagination up to you.”

Djokovic will start his Rome Masters title defence against Tomas Martin Etcheverry, while Alcaraz faces an all-Spanish affair with Albert Ramos Vinolas.

Stan Wawrinka or Grigor Dimitrov await Djokovic in the third round if he’s successful, and it would be Jiri Lehecka or Fabian Maroszan for Alcaraz.

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