Novak Djokovic admitted his lack of match fitness made it "mission impossible" as he "collapsed physically" during a surprise second round exit against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The 20-time major winner was featuring in just his second tournament of the 2022 season as a result of his vaccination status and Covid-19 regulations, and he looked way off his imperious best in a 3-6 7-6(5) 1-6 defeat to the world No. 46.
Djokovic had fought back from a set and a break down to win a tie break and force a decider, but the 34-year-old appeared hampered by fatigue in what turned into a one-sided finale to a two-hour-and-54-minute rollercoaster of an encounter.
Wimbledon
Djokovic not taking Covid vaccine, says US Open place depends on US government
13 HOURS AGO
The Serbian world No.1 was broken nine times and made 51 unforced errors in a lacklustre display and he conceded he ran out of steam in his first match since a quarter final defeat to Jiri Vesely in Dubai in February.
“I would like to congratulate Alejandro. He was the better player. He managed to find a better rhythm I think in the first two sets,” said Djokovic.
"I was hanging on the ropes the entire match. I was really chasing the result constantly.
“I didn’t like the way I felt physically in the third set. I just ran out of gas completely.
"I couldn’t really stay in the rally with him. If you can’t stay in the rally and you aren’t feeling your legs on the clay it is mission impossible.
“I don’t like that kind of feeling I experienced. I’m going to look with my team for reasons why that was the case and go back to the drawing board. Hopefully next week will be better in Belgrade.”
It was the first time Djokovic has lost his opening match at an event since he was beaten by Marin Klizan in Barcelona in 2018 but he refused to get overly concerned by his premature departure.

Highlights: Djokovic knocked out in first game back by Davidovich

He added: "I always believed that I could come back and win the match. I stayed there even though a lot of things were against me in terms of how I felt on court. Game-wise, physically I was just far from my best. I'm going to keep going and hopefully build my form for Roland Garros.
“So of course in those types of conditions and circumstances, then you have to really work two times more than you normally would. And again, I played a clay-court specialist. He had a match already on centre court a few days ago.
“I expected this match to be [a] really tough match, [a] physical battle, and that's what it was. Unfortunately I'm on the shorter end of the stick, and my week ends here.”
Djokovic is a two-time winner in the Principality but has not gone beyond the last eight at the tournament since his last triumph in 2015.
The record 37-time Masters champion is yet to confirm if he will play Madrid and Rome as part of his clay preparations for Roland Garros but is confident he can fine-tune his game in time, beginning with the Serbia Open next week.
“I knew a few days ago when I spoke to you that it's going to take some time for me to really feel my best on the clay,” he said. “That's historically always been the case. I’ve never played very well in the opening tournaments of the clay season.
“But it's okay. Obviously it is what it is. I have to accept the defeat and keep working.”

Highlights: Djokovic knocked out in first game back by Davidovich

Wimbledon
Djokovic, Alcaraz, Sinner, Ruud & Nadal - Plotting Murray's path to Wimbledon glory
YESTERDAY AT 12:53
Wimbledon
Djokovic, Nadal avoid unseeded big names at Wimbledon, Murray learns fate
YESTERDAY AT 10:11