MONACO — Every thing Novak Djokovic does on the tennis courtroom proper now ought to include the disclaimer: “Let’s wait and see.” No less than the previous world No. 1, who hasn’t been so since November 2016, appears to be shifting in the fitting course once more.
Name them child steps, however on Monday on the picturesque Rolex Monte Carlo Masters, Djokovic cruised to a 6-Zero, 6-1 win over fellow Serb Dusan Lajovic, who appeared glad sufficient to abide by some unwritten rule that to beat Serbia’s biggest ever can be downright impolite.
All out of kinds the final time he stepped onto the courtroom, in a loss to Benoit Paire in Miami, Djokovic appeared extra stable and assured than he has since starting his comeback in Australia after six months away with an elbow damage. The issue is, it is onerous to get a learn on precisely how Djokovic is feeling.
Having had a “small surgical intervention” to assist his elbow initially of February, Djokovic mentioned at Miami that he was lastly pain-free, however then on Monday he revealed that really, he had nonetheless been feeling discomfort in each occasions and that he had tried to return again too quickly.
“[Now] after two years finally I can play without pain,” he mentioned. “Indian Wells, Miami, especially Indian Wells, was not like that. 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. And that’s it.”
There was satisfaction at his efficiency, however listening to him, it was nearly like he was priming himself for a fall, realizing there could be extra false dawns earlier than he will get wherever near dominating the game once more, as he did a couple of years in the past.
“I personally feel, and I know that you can also see it from outside, that I’m lacking more of the match play, more of the situations of, you know, competition, playing out points in an official match,” Djokovic mentioned.
“Under the circumstances and considering I haven’t played too many official matches, I thought I played well, started the tournament well. It’s first match on clay. It’s against a very good friend of mine, who obviously hasn’t played at his best, was making a lot of mistakes. Still, I thought all in all, it was a great start of the tournament.”
It was at Monte Carlo this time final yr that Djokovic made the choice to separate together with his long-term coach and mentor Marian Vajda, in addition to two different members of his workforce. A yr on and Vajda is again, at the very least for this week, and when Vajda’s there, all appears glad in Camp Novak.
“It’s a fresh start I think for both of us,” Djokovic mentioned. “I missed him. I have a feeling that he missed me or tennis or both. 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. 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.”
The return of Vajda comes scorching off of the departure of Andre Agassi, who instructed ESPN at Miami that they’d now not be working collectively, including that they typically disagreed. Djokovic made pains to clarify that Agassi by no means had an official contract, that he was actually solely serving to him as a result of he wished to. Their cut up — not that he known as it that — was amicable, Djokovic mentioned.
There is no such thing as a long-term dedication but, however Djokovic have to be counting himself fortunate that Vajda has been prepared to return a yr after successfully being dumped. Favored and admired on the Tour, Vajda is a chilled affect and somebody who understands Djokovic and helped get him to the highest.
If Djokovic really is pain-free and freed from worry of damage, then he’s heading in the right direction. We’ll get a greater concept of his frame of mind — and physique — when he performs his second-round match on Tuesday towards Borna Coric, the Croatian who’s on the verge of the world’s prime 30.