Novak Djokovic will need to work on his physical conditioning if he is to pose a threat at Roland Garros, believes Eurosport's Alex Corretja.
In just his second tournament of 2022, Djokovic crashed out of last week's Monte Carlo Masters in his first match to eventual finalist Alejandro Davidovich. It was a very un-Djokovic performance, with the usually durable Serb fading in the third set as Davidovich outlasted him physically.
Djokovic admitted as much afterwards, and Corretja reckons the next few weeks are critical for the 34-year-old to spend time on court and build up his endurance ahead of the French Open, which starts in late May.
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Corretja said: "Novak, like everybody else, needs time. He needs to be patient because he hasn't played for such a long time.
"And even if he was not injured, he’s [got a] lack of rhythm, he needs to play matches, he needs to be in those sorts of moments when you are break point down and you know how to serve in that moment.
"These situations when you don't play, you miss these moments when you have everything automatic - all of a sudden you need to think again.
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"So I think he will need matches, he will need to get through those kind of moments and rallies where he will feel like his heart is going out of his mouth [chest], but he will need to recover from that.
"I think physically he needs to make a big effort, your legs need to be stronger on clay, they need to get bigger because you need to slide from side-to-side.
"You need to play rallies maybe of 30 to 40 shots and you need to recover from that. So I think he will need to play at least maybe 10 or 12 matches before Roland Garros to really be ready and feel like he's going to be one of the contenders.
"I'm sure that by the time Paris comes, Novak will be ready for that."
If Djokovic can re-discover his old physical level, then Corretja thinks there will be subsequent psychological benefits for the 20-time major champion.
Corretja said: "We need to understand he's been through so much pressure in the last months for many issues and it's not easy for him to deal with all those situations.
"And clay - even he is an unbelievable player on it - is not his natural surface.
"His serve is not as big as on hard courts. So he's not counting on so many quick points with the serve. His forehand is good, but it's not as great as on hard courts where the ball can get through the court and his backhand is unbelievable because it's very flat and from side-to-side, but at the same time you need to be very precise to play well on clay.
"So [there are] a lot of adjustments he needs to find through the tournaments and it's important for him to play those matches to get the confidence back and especially the mindset to know 'OK, I am back on tour and I need to do this to become a champion again at Roland Garros'.
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