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Preview: Novak Djokovic vs. Aleksandar Kovacevic - prediction, head to head

Sports Mole previews Monday's French Open first round match between Novak Djokovic and Aleksandar Kovacevic, including predictions.

Novak Djokovic will be aiming to become the most successful tennis player in Grand Slam history by winning this year's French Open, after his triumph at the Australian Open in January moved him level with Rafael Nadal on 22 major titles.

Djokovic will begin his quest to win Roland Garros for the third time in his career - having previously done so in 2016 and 2021 - against Aleksandar Kovacevic in the opening round on Monday.

Match preview

Novak Djokovic pictured at the Italian Open on May 17, 2023© Reuters

While no professional would actively wish injury or illness on one another, there is little doubt that the French Open field has become much more open since the 14-time Roland Garros champion Nadal announced that he would not be taking part in Paris this year due to an ongoing hip injury.

Djokovic, of course, has inflicted two of Nadal's career three defeats at the French Open, but the Serb will still sense an even bigger opportunity to move one clear of his great rival in terms of Grand Slam titles.

However, while there has arguably never been a more versatile and well-rounded tennis player in the game's history, clay is Djokovic's weakest surface, which is best demonstrated by the fact that he will not head into the tournament as the bookmakers' favourite to win outright.

Having been defeated by clay-court specialist Holger Rune across three sets at the quarter-final stage of the Italian Open last week, the 36-year-old will almost certainly look to ease his way into the tournament as he does best, which will help him avoid any complacency against his forthcoming opponent on Monday.

 on May 28, 2023© Reuters

Indeed, despite being ranked outside the top 100 players in the world rankings, Kovacevic's talent has helped him earn a direct entry spot at what will be the 24-year-old's first-ever appearance at a Grand Slam tournament.

Monday's meeting against a man who may end up being regarded as the greatest tennis player of all time represents quite the acid test for Kovacevic, who recently admitted that he grew up as a huge fan of his forthcoming opponent, which is perhaps no surprise given that his father Milan is a compatriot of Djokovic's.

"Watching him growing up was amazing. He's the best player to ever play," Kovacevic said. "I just feel kind of lucky to be able to play Novak on a stage like this. I'm honoured to play; it's going to be super cool."

Having lost each of his last seven matches on the red dirt, the World No. 101's chances of pulling off an upset across best-of-five sets appear to be incredibly slim, but all Kovacevic can do is give it a shot and hope to catch his idol on an off day.

Head To Head

Monday's match at the French Open will be these two players' first career meeting, meaning is there no head-to-head history to report on.

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We say: Djokovic to win in 3 sets

Although Djokovic does have a habit of starting major tournaments slowly, we expect him to have far too much quality for Kovacevic, who will be holding onto plenty of nervous energy given that this will be his first-ever appearance at a Grand Slam.

It would be a huge surprise if Kovacevic won a single set, let alone pushed the 22-time Grand Slam champion hard to earn what appears to be an inevitable victory, so we expect Djokovic to prevail in straight sets.

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