Novak Djokovic on Monday hailed Carlos Alcaraz as the "best player" of the season so far and said the Spanish teenager is one of the "main favourites" for Roland Garros.
Djokovic, who opens his Rome campaign against Russia's Aslan Karatsev, lost to Alcaraz in the semi-finals in Madrid last weekend and paid tribute at a press conference.
After taking out Rafael Nadal and Djokovic, Alcaraz picked up his fourth title of the year on Sunday with victory over world number three Alexander Zverev in the final.
He became the youngest player since the start of the ATP Tour in 1990 to beat three top-five players at the same event.
"So far he's the best player in the world, no question, this year with the results that he's been doing," Djokovic said at the Italian Open.
"The way he was dealing with the pressure in our match a few days ago, how calm he was all the way until the end, was impressive. He deserved to win the trophy."
Alcaraz hit a career-high ranking of number six on Monday and leads the tour with 28 wins against three losses in 2022.
The 19-year-old has seven top-10 victories this season, more than any other player. He is skipping the Rome tournament so he can be in peak condition for the French Open later this month.
"Everything about his game is really impressive. He's a really complete player, can play equally well offensively and defensively. He's the talk of the sport," added Djokovic of Alcaraz.
"Roland Garros, he's definitely one of the main favourites, no doubt."
Djokovic has missed multiple tournaments this year after choosing not to get vaccinated and arrives in Rome with just 11 matches under his belt (seven wins and four losses).
While he is still searching for his peak form, Djokovic believes his own "level of tennis is really high now".
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