Novak Djokovic admits it could take a few matches to “get in the groove” on clay as the world No 1 prepares for his return to the ATP Tour.
The Serbian is playing just his second tournament of the season this week when turning out at the Monte-Carlo Masters, where he faces Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round after receiving a first-round bye.
The ATP 1000 event kickstarts Djokovic’s bid to defend his French Open title, and a potential meeting with Carlos Alcaraz in the Monto Carlo quarters could await.
Djokovic, 34, insists he remains “motivated” to challenge the next crop of players, but added there could be a little rustiness having last played on Tour at the Dubai Tennis Championships in late February.
“I still feel motivated to be on the Tour and compete with young guys and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles,” Djokovic said.
“I’m very pleased to be here and Monaco has been home for over 10 years.
“I have been eagerly waiting for the moment when I will be out competing again, so this is the best place where I could possibly start.
“Clay court is the surface on which I grew up in Serbia and played many years only on that surface actually.
“Historically it hasn’t been my most successful surface, but I have had some big success on clay. [The] Roland Garros win last year is still fresh in my memory, so I try to use that as an inspiration to kick-start the clay-court season [in the] best possible way.
“I understand that I probably won’t be at my best at the beginning of this week. I am still testing my engine, so to say, and building my game, so it will take obviously some time, some matches to really get in the groove and find the competitive play that I really need.”
Djokovic reclaimed the top ranking after Daniil Medvedev’s three-week stint as No 1 came to an end after Indian Wells.
“Being world No 1 is the highest achievement that you can have in our sport, so I’ll try to maintain that position as much as possible,” Djokovic added.