ATP Monte-Carlo: Novak Djokovic in search of lost time

He returns. Again, and finally, I would say. And for good, we can hope. Everyone can think what they want of Novak Djokovic, of the champion, of the man, of his choices and his convictions but one thing is certain, that the best player in the world finds his place on the courts is very good news. . For him, of course, but for tennis too.

Best player in the world, that’s what remains until proven otherwise. However, despite Rafael Nadal’s fiery start to the season and Daniil Medvedev’s brief mathematical takeover in “you see me, you don’t see me anymore” mode, this proof has not been provided. Precisely because the cat was not there. By a strange combination of circumstances, the return of the cat coincides with the absence of these two main mice, both in the infirmary.

Deprived of the first Grand Slam tournament and the first two Masters 1000, Novak Djokovic had to give up on almost all of the first quarter. So much the worse for him, so much the better for others. The absent are always wrong, even when they are convinced that they have reasons. We only saw it appear furtively, in the slow period of this beginning of the season, in Dubai. Time to win two matches and lose the third against the 123rd player in the world, Jiri Vesely. A false start (or a false return), in a way.

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This time it’s something else. The Djoker does not take any moving train. He lands on earth, like everyone else, with a real horizon ahead of him: Roland-Garros. Rafael Nadal may be the king, but he is the holder. At an age where only the quest for new Grand Slam titles really matters to him, the Serb has a month and a half ahead of him to arrive in Paris at his best level. Until then, the rest will only be of relative importance. Especially in Monte Carlo.

Djokovic may be at home on the Rock, he the Monegasque by adoption, he is no longer really on the courts of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, where he has not passed the quarter-finals since 2015 while he remained on seven halves (at least). It is the only Masters 1000 where he has not appeared at least once in the last four over this period. On land, Djoko is a diesel. The start is smooth, to turbine at full speed at Roland-Garros.

Last year, by his own admission, he delivered in Monte Carlo “a horrible match” populated by 45 unforced errors against Dan Evans. As, aggravating factor, his lack of rhythm adds difficulty to his now usual princely difficulties, there will be nothing to trigger the ocher alert if he were to disappear prematurely this week. As long as he can chain tournaments, time will be on his side between now and Roland-Garros. Obviously, if he had to in the first round of each of his tournaments on earth, the problem would become quite different, but the hypothesis seems unlikely.

“We will see from his first match what level Djokovic will display”

There is really every reason to believe that Djokovic will be dangerous in the spring of 2022. Firstly because this (auto)forced rest period could prove profitable over the duration of this season. He arrives fresh as a roach, in his legs and perhaps even more so in his head. If the Covid-19 has not disappeared, the current state of the health situation authorizes him to consider things with a more or less clear horizon, at least as far as spring is concerned. A first for him this year. This freedom of spirit can’t hurt him.

So much for the “off-court” side. The champ now. No one can doubt that his fangs will scratch the crushed brick. It saw Nadal become the sole record holder for Grand Slam victories. He watched Medvedev push him from the throne, even if it was only for three weeks. In his eyes, was all this fully legitimate? Not sure, since he wasn’t there.

Sorry for the pathetic cinematographic reference, but it reminds a little of the “tagline” (caption of a film) of the catastrophic King Kong 2, released a year before the birth of the Djoker: “He’s coming back and he’s not happy”. Novak Djokovic returns and, deep down, he must be inhabited, if not by a form of anger, by a furious desire to prove that he is still the boss. It has been widely criticized for its almost unique position on the vaccine in the Global Top 100. But it suits him well, this side “Me and my convictions against the rest of the world”. He is never stronger than in adversity, no matter what forms they may take.

So, if he can kick some entry buttocks on the Rock, why bother? Even if, once again, Monte-Carlo is perhaps a bit early. Without wishing harm to anyone, neither in his zone nor in that of Carlos Alcaraz, we would not say no to a small poster between the ghost and the newcomer. It would be so exciting for us and indicator value for him.

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