The National Times - 'It's been difficult for me,' admits Djokovic ahead of Monte Carlo return

'It's been difficult for me,' admits Djokovic ahead of Monte Carlo return

'It's been difficult for me,' admits Djokovic ahead of Monte Carlo return
'It's been difficult for me,' admits Djokovic ahead of Monte Carlo return

Novak Djokovic admitted Sunday that his absence from tournaments due to his continued and controversial refusal to get vaccinated "has been difficult, mentally and emotionally" but he is "moving on".

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The world number one's only appearance in 2022 was in Dubai in February where he played just three matches.

Having been deported from Melbourne, and missing out on a possible 10th Australian Open, his single-minded Covid-19 stance then also saw him declared persona non-grata at the Indian Wells and Miami Masters.

"I hope I won't play six matches in six months! The past three to four months have been really difficult for me, mentally and emotionally. But here I am. I'll leave all that behind and move on," said Djokovic ahead of the Monte Carlo Masters, the prestigious European clay-court season opener which started Sunday.

"I don't think it will leave insurmountable traces, far from it. I'll try to use it as fuel."

In Djokovic's absence from the tour, long-time rival Rafael Nadal clinched the Australian Open for a 21st Grand Slam title, breaking a tie with the Serb and Roger Federer.

He also briefly lost his world number one ranking to Daniil Medvedev although he is now back on top of the pile where he has been for 364 weeks so far in his career.

"I understand that I probably won't be at my best at the beginning of this week," added Djokovic.

"I am still testing my engine, so to speak, 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."

Despite his off-court dramas, Djokovic insisted he is still keen to add to his Grand Slam collection.

His next opportunity comes at the French Open where he is the defending champion.

"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," said the 34-year-old Djokovic, the 2013 and 2015 champion in Monte Carlo.

"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."

His opening opponent will be Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina who saw off Marcos Giron of the United States 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday.

"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 best possible way," added Djokovic.