Goran Ivanisevic insists Novak Djokovic will be ready to defend his Roland Garros title despite looking way off peak form during an early exit at the Monte-Carlo Masters.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion was featuring in just his second tournament of the season and his lack of match action was evident as he suffered a surprise second-round loss to the world No. 46 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Djokovic admitted he was ‘hanging on the ropes the entire match’ in what was just his fourth competitive outing of 2022 – and his first since a quarter-final defeat in Dubai in February.
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The Serbian world No. 1 will look to make some considerable improvements heading into the Serbia Open next week as he steps up his preparations for Roland Garros on the back of a reduced schedule due to his vaccination status and Covid-19 restrictions.
“He wasn’t feeling well before he came here. He was sick,” explained his coach Ivanisevic during an interview with ubitennis.net.
“Let’s say he’s not fit 100 per cent to compete. First of all in this situation. Three weeks ago he was not allowed to play here because of the Covid decision. Then France opened and he was allowed. And it’s difficult mentally. You can play to the semi-finals, but you can’t prepare the way you would need to. And then he got sick.
To be honest, I didn’t expect something spectacular from this tournament. But he’ll be going to the French Open in five/six weeks, he’s got a couple more tournaments and he will be ready.
Davidovich Fokina is regarded as a clay-specialist on tour and many observers predicted it would be a tricky first match for the 34-year-old Serbian to navigate on the red dirt.
It proved to be the case, but Ivanisevic points to Djokovic’s travails in the early part of the clay swing last season as proof that his charge can fine-tune in time to pursue what would be a third Roland Garros crown.
“This guy (Djokovic) for me is the best player in the history of tennis,” he said. “He always finds a way to win, he always finds a way to get out of trouble. One moment he was losing three love when he was supposed to be leading three love. He had break points and game points. He lost a lot of energy.
"But he’ll find his way out of this in his constant playing. He only had three matches prior to this tournament. Clay is not easy. Last year he started pretty badly here, he lost to (Dan) Evans. Then in Belgrade he lost in the semis.
“He started to play well in Rome where he got to the final, then he won the French Open. So I’m not worried. He just needs some continuity. He needs to play more and more matches and he’s going to find his way.”

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Djokovic has had a difficult start to 2022 as he has struggled to find tournaments he can travel to as a result of refusing to have a Covid-19 vaccination.
It is in stark contrast to 2021 when the Serb came within one match of becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to achieve a Calendar Grand Slam.
Indeed, at one point he was aiming to be the first male ever to win a 'Golden' Slam, which would have involved winning the Olympic title in Tokyo as well as all four majors.
The Serb picked up the first three Grand Slams of the season but came up short against eventual gold medallist Alexander Zverev at the Olympics before being beaten by Daniil Medvedev in the final of the US Open.
Ivanisevic disagrees with the suggestion Djokovic should have missed the trip to Tokyo to focus on winning the final major of the year, but does concede that the world no. 1 took on a heavier schedule than he needed to.

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“No one could stop him from playing in the Olympics. I don’t think he made a mistake. I just think he made a mistake playing the mixed doubles,” he said.
“That was not necessary, because in the end he was tired. He didn’t even play for third or fourth place. I don’t think that because of this he lost the final of the US Open. (Daniil) Medvedev was very good. You can never underestimate him at any time. He’s an unbelievable player. He was a better player that day.
“But Novak was not Novak. Something was missing. But again, I don’t think it was because of the Olympics. It just happens. It happened in a bad moment. It happened in the most important match. Probably it would have been the history of tennis to win after… so many years. The first guy who had the chance to complete the Grand Slam in the same calendar year.
“It can happen, but he’s human, he can have these days like that. But when you have Medvedev on the other side of the net you need to be one hundred percent.”
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