Novak Djokovic left the Monte Carlo arena in a huff last week, having lost in his first appearance on the current clay-court tour – his second match of the season – and with an even bigger setback running through his mind. “After playing like this the feeling is very bad, so I can’t say anything. I’m not in the mood… ”, he replied to the journalist who asked him how his elbow was, wrapped in a dark protector and that during the duel against the Italian Lorenzo Musseti he returned to the old ghosts. Again, the joint. In the previous round, the number one had already had serious problems defeating the Russian Ivan Gakhov (198th in the world) and left the Principality truly upset.
Djokovic is, without a doubt, one of the greatest physical wonders in living memory, elastic as hell and with a physiognomy –tall, but light and powerful at the same time– that has allowed him to tackle a large number of records in his sport without that the injuries punished him excessively. Throughout his career, 20 years already in the elite, he has hardly suffered any significant setbacks. Except one. In January 2018, after going through the biggest crisis of his career and having gone on hiatus for half a year – since the fall at Wimbledon, empty on the inside and damaged on the outside – he reappeared and fell apart; he fell in his box in Australia against the Korean Hyeon Chung (eighth) and a few weeks later, a snapshot revealed the origin of the disease. But this time, the cause was not the mind.
”A few days ago, I agreed with my team to carry out a small medical intervention on my elbow. Now it seems that I am on the right path to recovery. I have had this injury for two years and during this time I have seen many doctors; I took a six-month break hoping to return recovered this year, but unfortunately I was still in pain,” said the Balkan, pictured at a Swiss airport with his right arm completely bandaged. That moment seemed to be the beginning of the end – “he came to think about retiring”, his wife would later reveal – but in reality it was the beginning of a return for everything great.
Just like in competition, Djokovic always comes back. However, last week’s dressing in Monte Carlo –stiffened forehand, 29 unforced errors and 15 km/h less than average speed on serve– generated a buzz and some images captured a couple of days ago during a training session prior to his entry. in the tournament in Banja Luka (Bosnia-Herzegovina) all the alarms went off. The current leader of the circuit was forced to stop the session and be treated again for his elbow, which in his day already forced him to renew the mechanics of the serve.
“The situation is not ideal,” he admitted before the fight with the Frenchman Luca van Assche, 87th on the ATP. “But it’s good enough and I hope I’m ready. Today, the biggest obstacle for me is myself ”, extended Nole, who this Wednesday suffered again for a long time at his debut in the second event he faces this year on clay. He won 6-7 (4), 6-3 and 6-2, but his expressiveness was worrying again. During the first set he showed off the compressor on his arm again and, curiously, when he got rid of it he managed to come back.
“The elbow has endured, and that it has done so in a game like this [2h 38m de duración] tells me that I am healthy. They are not the best conditions, but I am fine and I am hungry ”, he affirmed, having escaped from the mess and made an appointment with Dusan Lajovic or Gregoire Barrere; “Maybe the slowest conditions I’ve ever raced in. He couldn’t outplay him with the ball. He has been [Van Assche] able to respond to every ball for a set and a half, until I’ve managed to get some rhythm. You can always play better, but a victory is a victory, ”he assessed.
In any case, Roland Garros begins on May 28 and the latest events indicate that an unexpected adversary has once again emerged for Djokovic.
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