“I still feel motivation to be on the tour and compete with young guys” – Djokovic faces 22-year-old Davidovich Fokina upon return

The world No 1 will play just his second tournament of the season in Monte-Carlo and hopes to play a full clay court schedule over the coming months

Serbia's Novak Djokovic during a practice session at the ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo Masters Serbia’s Novak Djokovic during a practice session at the ATP Masters 1000 Monte Carlo Masters Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Masters 1000 Monte-Carlo | Draw | Order of play

World No 1 Novak Djokovic is eagerly looking forward to coming back to competition and remains as motivated as ever to compete against younger players as he prepares for his return to the circuit at this week’s Monte-Carlo Masters.

The Serb, a long-time resident in Monaco, is playing only his second tournament of the season (his first ended in a quarter-final loss to Jiri Vesely in Dubai). He meets Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round of the Monte-Carlo Masters on Tuesday, third match, and says the last few months have been taxing for him.

Djokovic : “last months have been challenging”

“Obviously I miss competition. I still feel motivation to be on the tour and compete with young guys and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles. Obviously last four, five months have been really challenging for me mentally and emotionally, but here I am and I try to leave all of that behind and move on,” the Serb told the media in Monte-Carlo before his first match

“Of course 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 best possible way. I intend to play full clay court season according to my schedule of the previous years. I understand that I probably won’t be at my best particularly at the beginning of this week, so 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.”

“So Roland Garros is the ultimate goal in clay court season, but of course I want to do my best in every tournament.”

Djokovic has not lost a set in two previous meetings against 22-year-old Fokina. The world No 46 from Spain defeated American Marcos Giron 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday to set up the showdown against the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

This is the best place where I could possibly start: Djokovic

While Djokovic sat by on the sidelines due to his decision to remain unvaccinated, he saw arch-rival Rafael Nadal win his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, another rival Daniil Medvedev briefly take over the world No 1 spot for three weeks and the emergence of a bonafide new challenger in Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz.

It’s no surprise then that the Serb is very much looking forward to getting back in the thick of things, beginning his clay court season at home.

“I’m very pleased to be here, and Monaco has been home really for over 10 years. I was really based here for over a decade, trained at this club, both hard courts, clay courts, so I know people at this club very well. Sleeping at home obviously makes the experience even better. I have all my family here. Of course I have been eagerly waiting for the moment when I will be out in the competition tournament again, so this is the best place where I could possibly start.”

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