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Djokovic ‘motivated’ to hit clay running on Monte Carlo return

Novak Djokovic says he is “motivated” to make a better than usual start to the clay-court season in Monte Carlo as he tunes up for a 23rd Grand Slam bid at the French Open.

The Serb is back on court after failing to get a waiver to enter the United States for last month’s Indian Wells tournament and Miami Open due to his anti-Covid vaccination stance.

“I hope I will start well, because the last three tournaments in Monte Carlo I have not been very successful,” the world number one said on Sunday.

“And I’m also motivated because I didn’t play for the past month,” added Djokovic, who is due to enter the Monte Carlo Masters fray in the second round against qualifiers American Mackenzie McDonald or Russian Ivan Gakhov.

A winner in 2013 and 2015, Djokovic will fancy his chances of going far in a tournament robbed of 11-time champion Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz due to injury.

Djokovic, who won this year’s Australian Open, is on nodding terms with every inch of clay in Monte Carlo, his local club.

“I know the club very well. I’m one of the players that lives in Monaco and use this club as a training base

‘Pick and choose’

“It’s a great feeling sleeping in your own bed on your own pillow and being able to have kind of a home feeling of playing in the tournament.”

At 35 years of age Djokovic says he is more selective about his playing commitments these days.

“Things are not the same like they were 10 years ago in terms of the amount of vital energy that I have to play as many tournaments as the other younger guys.

“So of course I do pick and choose where I want to peak and how I want to build my form and how I want to work around my schedule.

“There are certain events, in this case, of course, Grand Slams are the tournaments where I peak.

“So for the clay season it’s no secret where I want to be able to play my best tennis – it’s Roland Garros.”

He suggested his enforced absence since losing to Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals in Dubai at the start of March could stand him in good stead.

“It is what it is.

“I did more training on clay, which is of course positive if you think about the clay season.

“I haven’t played really good tennis here. So I’m hoping that this year I can start the clay season better than I did in previous years, hopefully build my form as I’m coming closer to Paris.”

He added: “Comparing to last year, it’s a whole different situation. I feel I have match play in my legs more than enough to be happy about the clay season.”

As for the missing Nadal, Djokovic conceded it was “a loss” for the tournament before quickly adding: “On the other hand it’s an opportunity I think for all of us others when he’s not there to try to go far and grab a title.”

Djokovic was beaten in his opening match in Monte Carlo last year by Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who went on to reach the final before losing to defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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