With Djokovic out, who will win the men's title?

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PARIS — For the first time since 2009, there will be no Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal in the final four of the French Open.

Nadal’s journey this year lasted just one round, as the 14-time champion, battling injury, was defeated by Alexander Zverev. But there was still Djokovic, the defending champion.

Djokovic played through two five-set matches in the third and fourth rounds, but he injured his knee during his win against Francisco Cerundolo on Monday. On Tuesday, the announcement came of Djokovic’s withdrawal: He had suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee.

For so long, the French Open has seemed predestined to end up in either Nadal’s or Djokovic’s hands. But with both legends out, the tournament is as open as it has been since Nadal started his Roland Garros dominance back in 2005. Who will win? We rank the contenders.

1. Carlos Alcaraz

Since Carlos Alcaraz broke onto the scene, it has felt like he would be the heir apparent to Nadal’s French Open throne. But his first two Slams would come elsewhere: at the US Open in 2022 and then that epic triumph over Djokovic at Wimbledon last year, where he won the title in only his fourth grass-court tournament.

This year, Alcaraz reached the quarterfinal of the Australian Open, where he lost to Zverev, but then won at Indian Wells. His clay-court swing has been far from straightforward, though. He was forced to withdraw from the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open with a forearm injury. He then lost in Madrid to Andrey Rublev and withdrew from Rome with the same injury.

Here at Roland Garros, he has worn a protective sleeve on his right arm and said, “I’m a little bit scared about hitting every forehand 100%.”

He said the same after his straightforward first-round win over J.J. Wolf. If he gets to full power, then that’s surely a worrying sign for the other contenders — and he might be impossible to stop.

Alcaraz was pushed hard by Dutch qualifier Jesper de Jong in the second round and again by Sebastian Korda in the third round. But it was in his conclusive victory over Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round that he looked like he was comfortable again.

Up next is Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals, and Alcaraz is in a confident mood, saying on-court that he has the “key” to beating him, having won all five of their previous matchups.

“I know that Stefanos is playing great, but I know tactically what I have to do in the match, which I’m not going to say, obviously, but I know what I have to do [to win] the match,” Alcaraz said.

2. Jannik Sinner

After winning his first Grand Slam in January, Jannik Sinner was one of the favorites to make it two out of two in Paris. But like so many of his contemporaries, Sinner came to Roland Garros with questions over his fitness. He withdrew from his quarterfinal at the Madrid Open with a hip injury and then also withdrew from the Italian Open. He told the media before the tournament that he was feeling OK, and he backed that up with a commanding opening-round win over Chris Eubanks.

“The hip is good. I’m very happy. I’m glad that my team and myself, we were working very hard to be on court as soon as possible,” Sinner said afterward. “For sure, the general shape is not at 100% yet, so we try to build every day.”

He had to cope with playing against a partisan crowd for his second-round match with Richard Gasquet, but came through that in straight sets. Afterward, the vastly experienced Gasquet was complimentary of Sinner.

“Apart from Djokovic, he hits a hard backhand, a hard forehand,” Gasquet said. “He has a good serve as well. So with Alcaraz they will be No. 1 and 2, I think, for quite a few years to come, because they are both very good players. He plays really very, very well. His timing is extraordinary. He’s a very big player.”

Sinner backed up that win over Gasquet with a comfortable triumph over Pavel Kotov in Round 3. “Tennis-wise I felt quite good today on court,” Sinner said postmatch. “Physically I feel like I still have to improve a couple of things.”

Though he dropped the first set in the fourth round against Corentin Moutet, he navigated that tricky tie well.

Sinner was on court when Djokovic’s withdrawal was announced, midway through the final third of his straight-sets quarterfinal win over Grigor Dimitrov. Djokovic’s withdrawal means Sinner will be crowned world No. 1 on Monday. Sinner, who won the Australian Open, makes history in the process, becoming the first Italian man to reach such a feat.

3. Casper Ruud

The clay-court specialist reached the past two French Open finals. In 2022, he had the misfortune of running into a resurgent Nadal, while last year, it was Djokovic who toppled him.

After that defeat to Djokovic, Ruud set out his aspirations. “Hopefully I can build on that, and one day I’m going to try to obviously aim for a Slam title,” he said. “It’s been close, but close but no cigar, so I’m going to keep working and try to get it one day.”

He hasn’t found life straightforward at Roland Garros. He eased through the first round in straight sets against Felipe Meligeni Alves, then needed five sets to get past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Tomas Martin Etcheverry pushed him hard in the third round, with Ruud coming through 6-4, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2. And Taylor Fritz was a tough test in the fourth round — the American renaming himself “Claylor” on account of his new love of clay. Ruud had a dodgy second set, but came through in four, powering past Fritz to further emphasize his title credentials. And now he has an extra couple of days rest, advancing automatically to Friday’s semifinal because of Djokovic’s withdrawal.

Best of the rest

Alexander Zverev has mixed memories at the French Open. Two years ago, he was going toe-to-toe with Nadal in the 2022 semifinals, only to slip awkwardly and rupture his ankle ligaments. The last time out, he reached the semifinal stage for the third year running, only to lose in straight sets to Ruud.

But this year, he came in to Roland Garros as one of the favorites after winning the Italian Open. He defeated Nadal in straight sets in the first round and then survived a huge scare to edge past Tallon Griekspoor in a fifth-set tiebreak in the third round. On Monday in the fourth round, Zverev needed five sets again to get past Holger Rune. Rune pushed him to his limits, but Zverev’s experience brought him through.

As he plays in Paris, Zverev remains the focus of domestic abuse allegations in Germany. His trial, which he doesn’t have to be present for, began on May 31 in Berlin.

Alex de Minaur was outstanding against Daniil Medvedev in their fourth-round match. The Aussie has never reached this stage of the tournament before, but the variety in his game against Medvedev was impressive, as was his pace to the net. Just seconds after winning the match, he was shouting to the crowd at Court Suzanne Lenglen: “I love the clay. I love it here. I can’t get enough.”

He will go into the quarterfinal quietly confident of making the semifinal.

Stefanos Tsitsipas would’ve made the top contenders for the title but for the fact he has Alcaraz in his way. Tsitsipas is loving life at Roland Garros, playing in the men’s doubles with his brother, Petros.

But he has maintained his intensity in the singles, coming through his first three rounds dropping just one set, and then needing four to get past Matteo Arnaldi, after losing the opening set.

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