It’s been a shaky start for Novak Djokovic to the 2022 clay season. The Serb ran out of gas in Monte Carlo losing to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, and then he was fed a bagel in the final set of the title match in Belgrade by Andrey Rublev.
Long considered one of the fittest players on tour, it was jarring to see him out of air after two sets of tennis. Yesterday, speaking in Madrid, Djokovic talked more about an apparent illness he had going into Monte Carlo.
“It’s not the lack of matches,” Djokovic said of his fitness issues. “Lack of matches affects my ability to play on a certain level and perform, but this was related to that illness that I had, you know, a week before Monte-Carlo tournament.
“I knew I was not really 100% ready for that tournament, but still, I wanted to play because I was really looking forward to have some matches and playing in Monaco, where I resided for many years.
“So I go guess there is some traces of that still left in my system that I guess come forth when I’m, you know, really physically challenged.
“But different in Belgrade than it was in Monaco, as I said. Knowing that I played four almost-three-hour matches and long, three-set battles gives me enough reason to believe that it’s headed in the right direction. I had a very good week of training now, put more emphasis on fitness and building the stamina and endurance, because that’s what’s going to be necessary in order to compete with top guys on the slowest and physically most demanding surface in our sport.”
Djokovic won’t have much to time to clear whatever is going on. He’ll be playing best-of-5 in three weeks. For now, tomorrow he’ll have Gael Monfils, a friendly foe he has defeated 17 straight times.
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