Novak Djokovic starts the Monte-Carlo Masters and the clay court season still as number one in the world. Still, his results in 2024 are disappointing and there is certainly a lot of international attention to see how he will perform in this tournament, which he managed to win twice. But since his last win in 2015, he has failed to progress beyond the quarterfinals, which is quite remarkable for a player of his stature.

On Saturday, he spoke to the international media and immediately made it clear that he was looking forward to the tournament. “I always love playing here because Monaco is very special for me. I’ve lived here for a long time, my two children were born here, it’s like home. I’ve been training here for an incredible number of hours. I know everybody!”

The clay-court season should help Djokovic’s year, but he doesn’t see himself as a favorite for the overall victory. “Clay is the most demanding surface. It takes me longer to reach my peak. My expectations are not very high, to be honest, looking at how I’ve played this year and the recent results here. For me, it’s mostly a matter of building my game on clay, hoping to reach the peak of form again at Roland-Garros. Everything else before will be a bonus, if I have good results. Earlier in my career, I had better results here but the last five or six editions here have not been very successful. But that can change! I’m excited and excited to be here. I didn’t play in Miami, I had more time to train on clay.”

Since the early elimination from the Indian Wells tournament, Djokovic has parted ways with his coach Goran Ivanisevic. The Croatian announced in the media that the cooperation had reached its end without there being any quarrel. Djokovic confirms this impression: “We both felt like we had given our all in this relationship. It was time for a change. It’s very simple. He remains my friend and my family’s friend, and one of the most influential coaches in the history of the game. The results speak for themselves. That’s all I can say.”

He will work this time with his compatriot Nenad Zimonjic as coach, who Djokovic flown in when he had already started preparing for this tournament. A surprising choice perhaps, but the top tennis player explained it himself: “He’s been a friend for a long time. I’ve known him since I was young, he was my Davis Cup captain. We won the ATP Cup together in 2020, we’ve always had good communication. I like the way he thinks about tennis, the way he watches my game and the way others play. He’s always helped me, he’s been like a mentor, a big brother. And we’ve kept that relationship. I asked him to come to Monaco and he said yes. That’s where we are now. It’s based on our long-standing relationship. We’ll see where it takes us. We’ll talk about that at the end of this tournament. So far, it’s been fun as it always has been between us. It’s new and refreshing.”

Djokovic also spoke out about the withdraw of Rafael Nadal, with whom he has a good relationship. “It’s important for our sport to have Rafa on a court, and even more so this year, where he said it might be his last. It’s a shame to see him out since the beginning of the year. I don’t know where he’s at with his body. But who else has the right to do what is right for him? He’s a legend of our sport. As a tennis fan, I hope he can return to his favorite clay court at Roland-Garros.”

Finally, he also gave his opinion on Jannik Sinner, the new star of world tennis, whom he announced as his successor last year: “Jannik is currently the best player in the world. He only lost one game in 2024. He’s improved in every area of his game. He moves better, he’s very present mentally. In the important matches, you can see the difference in Jannik over the last six months. He wins the big games. He’s learned from his mistakes and he’s very present in the important moments. We all knew that he could hit hard, forehand and backhand, that he loved to be aggressive in dictating points. It’s a very big evolution from a technical and tactical point of view. He’s playing unbelievable tennis.”

Featured image courtesy of REUTERS/Denis Balibouse – 2022 Monte-Carlo Masters – Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his second round match against Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina