Novak Djokovic - Roland Garros 2022

Novak Djokovic reveals the ‘most important’ thing for his clay season

Novak Djokovic has revealed the ‘most important’ thing to him leading up to Roland Garros, and also commented on his great rival Rafael Nadal’s absence from the ATP tour.

Djokovic has not played since the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships that finished at the beginning of March, and is returning to the ATP tour to prepare to bid for a record 23rd Grand Slam title.

The 35-year-old begins his clay court season at the Monte Carlo Masters, a place where he used to live before moving to Marbella a couple of years ago.

“It is a club I know very well. Quite a few top players reside in Monaco and use this club as a training base. The club transforms incredibly during the weeks of the tournament, but it is a great feeling to sleep in your own bed,” said Djokovic.

He continued, “The atmosphere is amazing, with the club being so intimate and small. It is noisy and great. People are so excited to watch tennis and this is the tournament that has been successful throughout the history of our sport.”

Djokovic has not played on the ATP tour for over a month, having not been able to enter the US due to his vaccination status, meaning that he missed the sunshine double.

However, the No.1 believes that this time away could benefit him as he had more time to practice on the dirt.

“I have done more training on clay, which is positive if you think about the clay season. I have not had much success in Monte Carlo in the past two seasons. I haven’t played great tennis here, so I am hoping this year I can start the clay season better than in previous years and build my form,” said the 22-time Grand Slam champion.

Djokovic also spoke about which part of the clay court season is most important to him. “From my experience and career on clay, I can say that the first two [tournaments] on this surface are the most important for me because it is very difficult to start well.”

Rafael Nadal, is the most successful player ever at the Monte Carlo Masters, with 11 titles to his name, but he will not be challenging for another crown this year having not recovered from his injury in time.

Djokovic commented on his great rivals absence, “This is a loss for the tournament and tennis in general, because he is what he is, so far the greatest and most successful tennis player on clay of all time.”

“We know how many times he won Monaco and all the other clay tournaments. On the other hand, it is an opportunity for all the rest of us, that when he is not there, we try to go as far as possible and win the title.”

Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo

Djokovic reflected on his lack of success at the prestigious event over the last couple of years, but the Serb has had previous glory with two titles to his name.

Here are all of Novak Djokovic’s performances at the Monte Carlo Masters:

2006 – Lost in the first round to Roger Federer (1), 3-6 6-2 3-6

2007 – Lost in the third round to David Ferrer (12), 5-7 4-6

2008 – Lost in the semi-final to Roger Federer (1), 3-6 2-3 (retired)

2009 – Lost in the final to Rafael Nadal (1), 3-6 6-2 1-6

2010 – Lost in the semi-final to Fernando Verdasco (6), 2-6 2-6

2012 – Lost in the final to Rafael Nadal (2), 3-6 1-6

2013 – Beat Rafael Nadal (3) in the final, 6-2 7-6(1)

2014 – Lost in the semi-final to Roger Federer (4), 5-7 2-6

2015 – Beat Tomas Berdych (6) in the final, 7-5 4-6 6-3

2016 – Lost in the second round to Jiri Vesely, 4-6 6-2 4-6

2017 – Lost in the quarter-final to David Goffin (10), 2-6 6-3 5-7

2018 – Lost in the third round to Dominic Thiem (5), 7-6(2) 2-6 3-6

2019 – Lost in the quarter-final to Daniil Medvedev (10), 3-6 6-4 2-6

2021 – Lost in the third round to Dan Evans, 4-6 5-7

2022 – Lost in the second round to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, 3-6 7-6(5) 1-6

Djokovic begins his bid for a 39th Masters 1000 title this afternoon, when he plays against qualifier Ivan Gakhov after receiving a bye to the second round as the top seed.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.