Djokovic 'Inspired' & Ready In Monte-Carlo
Two-time Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion Novak Djokovic stepped on Court Rainier III Monday at the Monte-Carlo Country Club for just his seventh match since 2017 Wimbledon. The Serbian arrived on a three-match losing streak, his first of that length since the end of 2007, when he dropped five in a row.
But after defeating countryman Dusan Lajovic in under an hour with the loss of just one game, Djokovic delivered exciting news.
“After two years finally I can play without pain,” Djokovic said.
In February, the 30-year-old announced a ‘small medical intervention’ on his right elbow to help him recover from an injury that had bothered him for two years. The Serbian played his first matches since the Australian Open (l. to Chung) at Indian Wells (l. to Daniel) and Miami (l. to Paire), less than two months after that ‘intervention’.
“The intervention was done right, and I came back already after five weeks on the court from the moment I had the surgery. That's amazing,” Djokovic said. “I still obviously wasn't ready game-wise, physically. So Indian Wells and Miami were really kind of a struggle on the court for me mentally. I know that I can play much better than that, but I couldn't. I just wasn't ready.”
But now, after a devastating performance in which Djokovic won 67 per cent of return points and showed signs of the form that helped him finish the year at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings four times, the right-hander is excited to move forward.
“I thought it was good considering the amount of matches I've played in the past almost 12 months,” Djokovic said. “With injury and everything that was happening the past couple months, the post-surgery period, me trying to come back to Indian Wells and Miami, and obviously playing well below the desired level, it wasn't that easy for me to cope with all of that. At the same time it made me I think even more inspired to come back and try to play the way I played today.
“Under the circumstances and considering I haven't played too many official matches, I thought I played well. I thought I started the tournament well. It's [my] first match on clay,” Djokovic said. “All in all, it was a great start of the tournament.”
And Djokovic was also excited to have Marian Vajda, his coach from June 2006 until May 2017, back in his corner.
“It's a fresh start I think for both of us. I missed him,” Djokovic said, before cracking a smile. “I have a feeling that he missed me or tennis or both.”
The No. 9 seed says he does not yet have a long-term commitment with Vajda, but that their time together thus far has gone as well as possible.
“We both enjoyed a lot the past 10 days of practice we had. He knows me better than any tennis coach I've worked with. He's a friend. He's someone I can share a lot of things with, whether it's professional or private life. He's always there for me,” Djokovic said. “He knows me inside-out. He knows what I need in order to get to the highest possible level of play. We could not ask for a better start.”
Now that the former World No. 1 is pain-free, he can begin his climb back to top form. That journey will continue in the second round against Indian Wells semi-finalist Borna Coric.
“The first practice we had, that's what I felt. I felt safe on the court, I felt motivated, a lot of great things,” Djokovic said. “We're going to both work to keep it that way.”