© Realis/Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters

Novak Djokovic leaves Monte-Carlo feeling positive about his tennis.

Djokovic Disappointed But Encouraged By Monte-Carlo Run

Serbian to continue clay-court season next week

To attempt to get inside Novak Djokovic's head these days is to imagine a battle of desire vs. reality: The former No. 1 in him wants to return to his glory days right now and to beat Dominic Thiem in the third round of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

But the more realistic side of Djokovic, the part of him that remembers he's played only nine matches in nine months, realises pushing the fifth-seeded Thiem, the only player to beat Rafael Nadal on clay last year, to three sets is by itself an accomplishment this early in his comeback from his right elbow injury.

“Ideally I'd want to be playing the way I played for so many years,” said Djokovic, who lost 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3 against Thiem on Thursday. “But that comes with time. I understand that it's quite hard to play match after match on a very high level if I didn't have too many matches behind me, if I had an injury, if I had an absence from the Tour for six months. All these things we have to take in consideration.

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“Obviously patience is required, trust in the process, believing in myself, in my game, people around me. I really believe that if I continue doing what I'm doing so far, believing in myself, I know eventually I'm going to get there. I'm going to get there.”

Djokovic's third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the year – only his fourth tournament of 2018 – was, however, by far his best showing of the year. The ninth seed dropped only one game in his opener to beat countryman Dusan Lajovic in 57 minutes. Djokovic then beat the in-form Borna Coric, who last month reached the BNP Paribas Open semi-finals in Indian Wells and the quarter-finals of the Miami Open presented by Itau.

“A lot of positives in this tournament. Three matches played. The last two matches have been almost two and a half hours, today three sets obviously against one of the best players in the world, especially on clay,” Djokovic said.

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“I've played some great tennis... Still some ups and downs. But every match here in Monte-Carlo had some periods of brilliance and the tennis that I really enjoyed, I wanted to play. That obviously gives me a lot of positive energy for what's coming up.”

Most importantly for the Serbian, two issues that have been looming large in his life – his right elbow and his coaching situation – appear to be more settled. The 30-time Masters 1000 champion said he hardly thinks about his right elbow anymore, which had bothered him for the past two and a half years.

“I'm feeling like it's been getting better every day. I've had three matches here. I didn't expect anything. I played without pain in the elbow, which is important,” Djokovic said.

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“I'm not thinking about it too much because the only thing I can influence is now, is the present. I've done, with people around me, everything in our power to get my elbow in the best possible shape. I'm really happy with the way things are working out right now.”

On the coaching front, Djokovic reunited with former coach Marian Vajda this week in the Principality, and Djokovic said, the two will work together throughout the clay-court season, which, for the Serbian, will continue next week in either Budapest or Barcelona. Djokovic said that he will accept a wild card from one of the two tournaments and decide which one on Friday.

“I'm lacking matches. That's why we all agreed that it's quite important for me to play, try to use every opportunity possible,” Djokovic said. “We'll continue working hard in this process, trying to build up... I look forward to building more confidence on the court, to get my game on a desired level.”