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Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal: The Race to 23 Grand Slams

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the two most decorated male players of all-time with 22 Grand Slam titles apiece and the Serb will get the first shot at reaching 23.

Nadal has made the French Open his own down the years, winning the Paris Grand Slam on 14 occasions.

However, the Spaniard has been ruled out of his title defence after failing to regain full fitness from a hip injury he suffered at the Australian Open back in January.

In the absence of Nadal, Djokovic is 15/8 to be crowned French Open champion, a tournament he has won twice in the past - having reigned supreme in 2016 and 2021.

Nadal will be hoping his younger compatriot Carlos Alcaraz, who is 5/4 to claim a maiden French Open title, can do him a favour and spoil the Serb's party.

Djokovic will fancy his chances

Even if Djokovic fails to add a third French Open crown to his long list of achievements next month, the Serbian should still fancy his chances of securing a 23rd Grand Slam title this season.

Djokovic has already been in Grand Slam-winning form this term as he claimed the Australian Open title in January, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final to secure his tenth Melbourne Major.

That shows that the 35-year-old is showing no signs of age getting to him and, with Wimbledon still to come in the summer, Djokovic has every chance of recording further success.

That is because the Belgrade native has made the hallowed turf of Wimbledon his own, winning the grass-court Grand Slam on seven occasions which includes each of the last four renewals (2020 was postponed).

Djokovic is 1/1 to record a fifth straight Wimbledon win and would take some stopping given few players have been able to translate their best game to the surface.

It is the Serbian's versatility regarding surface that makes him such a formidable opponent and he has enjoyed plenty of success at the US Open, too, winning at Flushing Meadows.

However, Djokovic has not won the States Slam since 2018 and by the time that tournament comes about in late August, it has been a gruelling campaign and fresher legs tend to come to the fore.

Even so, the super Serb is 11/8 to win the US Open, which highlights the strength in his chances of winning a 23rd Grand Slam title this year.

Nadal hoping for one last hurrah

Given 14 of Nadal's 22 Grand Slam successes have come at the French Open, missing this year's event in Paris is a big blow to the Spaniard's chances in his pursuit of being the most decorated player of all-time.

Nadal's dominance on the slower surface has earned him the nickname King of Clay and only once since 2019 has the Spaniard won a Grand Slam event outside of Paris.

Nadal did claim what was only his second Australian Open title in 2022, but he could make only the second round in the defence of his crown in January.

The Spaniard's next Grand Slam appearance is expected to come at Wimbledon this summer but he has won that event only twice and has not made a final at the All England Club since 2011, which means a third is probably beyond him.

Nadal is 10/1 to the grass-court Major in July while he is 9/1 to win the US Open in 2023.

Flushing Meadows has been a happy hunting ground for Nadal down the years, with the veteran winning the tournament on four occasions.

His most recent success in the States came in 2019, when he defeated Daniil Medvedev in the final, but injuries have meant he has featured only once in that event since, losing in the fourth round last season.

With the mighty Mallorcan turning 37 in June, his time at the top is close to an end and that makes Djokovic - one year his younger - the man to beat in the race for 23 Grand Slam titles.

It is an achievement the Serb will be fancied to chalk off this term.

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