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

He comes back. Again and again, I would say. And forever we can hope. Everyone can think what they want about Novak Djokovic, the champion, the man, his decisions and his beliefs, but one thing is for sure, the best player in the world finding his place on the courts is very good news. . For him, of course, but also for tennis.

Best player in the world, that remains until proven otherwise. But despite Rafael Nadal’s fiery start to the season and Daniil Medvedev’s brief mathematical takeover in “You see me, you see me no more” mode, that proof hasn’t been forthcoming. Just because the cat wasn’t there. By a strange coincidence, the cat’s return 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 almost the entire first quarter. The worse for him, the better for others. The absent are always wrong, even when they think they have reasons. We only secretly saw it in the slow phase of this season opener in Dubai. Time to win two games and lose the third against the 123rd player in the world, Jiri Vesely. A false start (or false return) in a way.

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It’s different this time. The Djoker does not take a moving train. He lands on the ground, like everyone else, with a real horizon in front of him: Roland-Garros. Rafael Nadal may be the king but he is the keeper. At an age where only the search for new Grand Slam titles is really important to him, the Serb has a month and a half 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 reached the quarterfinals since 2015 while remaining on seven halves (at least ) . It’s the only Masters 1000 where he hasn’t finished in the bottom four at least once during that period. On land, Djoko is a diesel. The start is smooth to accelerate at full speed at Roland-Garros.

Last year in Monte Carlo he said he had “a terrible match” with 45 unforced errors against Dan Evans. To make matters worse, his lack of rhythm complicates his now-standard princely difficulties, there will be nothing that would set off the ocher alert if he were to leave early this week. As long as he can chain tournaments, time until Roland-Garros will be on his side. Of course, if he had to do it in the first round of each of his tournaments on Earth, the problem would unfold quite differently, but the hypothesis seems unlikely.

“We will see in his first match what level Djokovic will show”

There really is every reason to believe that Djokovic will become dangerous in the spring of 2022. On the one hand, because this compulsory (car) break could prove to be profitable over the course of this season. He arrives fresh as a cockroach, in his legs and maybe even more so in his head. If the Covid-19 has not disappeared, the current state of the health situation empowers him to look at things with more or less clear horizons, at least as far as spring is concerned. A first for him this year. This intellectual freedom cannot harm him.

So much for the “extrajudicial” side. The champion now. No one can doubt that his fangs will scratch the crushed brick. This made Nadal the sole record holder for Grand Slam wins. He watched as Medvedev ousted him from the throne, even if it was only for three weeks. Was it all perfectly legitimate in his eyes? Not sure since he wasn’t there.

Apologies for the pathetic cinematic reference, but it’s a bit reminiscent of the “tagline” (subtitle of a movie) of the disastrous King Kong 2, released a year before the Djoker was born: “He’s Coming Back And He’s Not Happy”. Novak Djokovic returns and deep down he must be inhabited, if not by some form of anger, by an angry desire to prove he’s still boss. It has been widely criticized for its almost unique position in relation to the vaccine in the Global Top 100. But it suits him well, this “me and my beliefs versus the rest of the world” side. He is never stronger than in adversity, no matter what forms it may take.

So, when he can kick some entry-level jaws onto the rocks, why bother? Even if Monte-Carlo is perhaps a bit too early again. Without harming anyone, neither in his zone nor in Carlos Alcaraz’s, we wouldn’t 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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