Novak Djokovic steps up French Open preparation, hopes to go deep in Belgrade after Monte Carlo nightmare

Novak Djokovic attends a media day

His Monte Carlo Masters campaign did not go according to plan, but Novak Djokovic is hoping to continue his preparations for the French Open by getting a few more matches under his belt at the Serbia Open.

After missing big chunks of the first three months of the season due to his unvaccinated status, Djokovic returned to action at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo last week.

However, he struggled on the clay and eventually went down 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1 in the second round against the unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina from Spain.

Alarm bells ringing for Novak Djokovic as comeback ends in defeat

He will be back on court on Wednesday as he will take on either Laslo Dere or Hamad Mededovic in an all-Serbian clash in Belgrade and hopes for a longer stay in the tournament.

“I was not fully ready for the tournament in Monte Carlo and I knew that before the tournament started,” he said at a press conference.

“However, I need match practice and this is the surface (clay) that requires a lot of time spent on the court during training sessions, and even more during matches.

“I hope to play more matches in Belgrade than in Monte Carlo.”

The big aim on clay, as always, is the French Open with the red dirt Grand Slam starting on May 23 and Djokovic is the defending champion after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2021 final.

The world No 1 is set to play in the Madrid Open and Italian Open before heading to Roladn Garros, but that could change depending on his form.

“Roland Garros is the quintessential clay-court tournament and I’m partly already there in my thoughts, in terms of preparation and everything I’m doing at the moment to get there as ready as I can be,” Djokovic said.

He added: “My current plans include Madrid and Rome.

“It depends, really, on my results here and the shape I’m in. We’ll decide then.”

He added: “I had never before played a tournament in the week ahead of Roland Garros but last year I decided to do just that.

“Because it was Belgrade and I needed the feeling that the audience is the wind beneath my wings. It came true, I won the tournament, and it turned out I made a good decision ahead of the French Open.”