Novak Djokovic believes he has hit the reset button on his season at exactly the right moment as the world No. 2 enters the Monte Carlo Masters eager to begin his title defense.
The Serb, who is based in the principality, ended Rafael Nadal’s eight-year title streak a year ago, although the Spaniard then went on to defend his French Open crown.
Djokovic said he was bolstered by his back-to-back Masters trophies from the US last month as he beat Roger Federer in Indian Wells and topped Nadal for a third straight match to win Miami honors.
“I’m excited to be defending, but I don’t change the way that I approach any event,” said the second seed, who has coach Boris Becker back in his corner after the German’s recent hip surgery.
“My state of mind right now is all that I had hoped for, I do have confidence, especially after a slow start to this season. Going onto the clay always feels like a new beginning, it will be very important to start well, hopefully with another win, but then again, with the level of competition out there, no one can predict anything,” he added.
Djokovic enters the competition at the Monte Carlo Country Club riding a 10-match win streak after completing the Indian Wells-Miami double for the first time in his career. He stands 20-6 in Monte Carlo and is seeking to become the fifth player to successfully defend his crown in Monte Carlo after Bjorn Borg (1980), Thomas Muster (1996), Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003) and Nadal (from 2006 to 2012).
Top seed Nadal is trying to keep the pressure on himself as low as reasonably possible.
Spain’s world No. 1 said that he goes into his most potent period of the year unsure of anything except the fact that nothing will be easy.
The 27-year-old said on Sunday that the last time he played truly well on the surface he loves was last year’s Roland Garros final, when he won the Grand Slam title for an eighth time.
“This is an important part of the season for everyone, not just me,” the Spaniard said. “I don’t automatically switch from hardcourt to clay, I need time to make the adjustment. I only play on clay for five — maximum six — tournaments per year, I need time to adapt.”
Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka takes the third seeding, with the Australian Open winner over Nadal eager to show that he can hang with the elite and live up to his ranking.
Roger Federer, the fourth seed and a late wild-card entry, arrived in Monaco on Sunday to compete in Monte Carlo for the first time since 2011, when he lost in the quarter-finals to Jurgen Melzer.
First-round play got underway on Sunday, with 17th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov beating Latvian Ernests Gulbis, 6-2, 6-4, while Jeremy Chardy beat Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).
Also, Russian Dmitry Tursunov defeated the Netherlands’ Robin Haase 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 and Austrian youngster Dominic Thiem went down to Nicolas Mahut, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
CLAY COURT CHAMPIONSHIP
AFP, HOUSTON, Texas
Fourth seed Fernando Verdasco defeated Nicolas Almagro in an all-Spanish showdown to snap a six-match finals losing streak and claim the US Men’s Clay Court Championship title on Sunday.
Former world number seven Verdasco earned his first title since 2010 with a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4) victory at the River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve won a singles title,” Verdasco said. “It’s a very important day for me to win a tournament after a few years and after the injury in my knee the last couple years.”