Djokovic and 11-time victor Rafael Nadal, along with Roland Garros runner-up Dominic Thiem, stand as favourites on paper for the first major title of the French Open preliminary events.
Novak Djokovic acknowledged the three-year-old truancy of Roger Federer from the red dirt where the sport of tennis missed his game on clay. Eleven times the champion in Monte Carlo, he also will be going for title No. 12 in Barcelona next week and title No. 12 in the French Open at Roland-Garros next month - numbers that hardly seem possible, especially when said out loud.
For Djokovic's part, the two-time Monte-Carlo champion is trying to bounce back after disappointing third round and fourth round exits in Indian Wells and Miami, respectively.
"I expect a lot, of course, like in every clay-court season", Thiem said over the weekend. Djokovic hammered Nadal in the Australian Open final in January, and the mental battle between the two over the next few weeks promises to be fascinating.
Djokovic referred to Nadal's troublesome right knee, which flared up again last month and forced the second-ranked Nadal to pull out of his eagerly-awaited semifinal against Federer at Indian Wells.
Tennis royalty met Monaco's royalty ahead of the ATP Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo. Speaking in Monte Carlo, he reiterated that he "had a lot going on off the court". "That's the goal. I arrived here on Friday as usual, I had some hours of practice and I hope the competition puts me in the rhythm that I need". "Indian Wells, Miami have been kind of so and so, in terms of how I played and the results".
The top 2 seeds at this year's Monte Carlo Masters ATP 1000 event, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, will have to negotiate their way past tricky first round opponents if they are to progress.
"I think Rafa is always a very clear favorite on any clay court in the world, and it doesn't change - he's still there", Djokovic said. Certainly I was disappointed because I thought I was playing better and better and I thought I could go far. "That can serve only as an incentive, so to say, or confidence boost prior to clay season". "If he's physically fit he's definitely the No. 1 guy on this surface, without a doubt". "And then, you know, after him it's quite open".
Novak Djokovic said on Sunday he is working to ensure that last month's sub-par hardcourt performances do not affect his seasonal bow on clay in Monte Carlo. "He won the last three slams in a row, which is wonderful, and I think he also has in his mind that he can beat Rafa anywhere".
"It's true that there are a lot of issues that happened in the past year and a half that could be a moment to be a little bit frustrated, but being honest, every time I've had the chance to be back, I competed", Nadal said.
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