Novak Djokovic drawing inspiration from Juan Martin del Potro

Novak Djokovic is hoping to take a leaf out of Juan Martin del Potro’s book when it comes to returning to the top after injury.

Former world No 1 Djokovic opened his 2018 French Open campaign with a routine 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Brazilian qualifier Rogerio Dutra Silva on Monday.

It was a solid start from the 12-time Grand Slam winner, who is finally starting to find form again after a tricky, injury-filled couple of months.

“It’s been a long 12 months behind me, but I feel like I’m starting to play better in the past couple of weeks,” he said. “I think I had some really good moments in the match and some not that great. But I played Dutra Silva, a specialist in clay, who plays with a lot of energy. He’s a big fighter. So it wasn’t easy.

“I didn’t feel that great. But, yeah, I played enough to win, so it’s good.”

Djokovic hasn’t won a Grand Slam since his 2016 success at Roland Garros, but most of that is down to the fact that he has struggled with injury.

He was forced to end his 2017 campaign early due to an elbow problem and, although he played at this year’s Australian Open, he had another small medical procedure after the Melbourne major.

A string of early-round exits followed after he made his comeback, but he has looked in good shape in recent weeks and he hopes to follow in Del Potro’s footsteps as the Argentine has made his way back to the top after suffering several career-threatening injuries.

“I had to dig deep, especially when I came back to the tennis court after four-and-a-half months after not playing tennis at the end of last year, and then the pain recurred, and I didn’t know in which direction that was going to take me,” he said.

“It’s a challenge but I’m not the first player in the history of this game to face these kind of circumstances with big injuries. (Juan-Martin) Del Potro comes to mind. He’s someone that has faced even worse challenging circumstances with two, three years of couple surgeries, coming back, playing, not playing really well, and then having to retire so many times.

“And now he’s back to top 10, top five of the world. That’s impressive. Those kind of stories inspire you – and hopefully I can do the same.”