Djokovic appears back to his best
Novak Djokovic did not just come home yesterday; he came back to himself.
Playing a stone’s throw from his Monte Carlo apartment, Djokovic ended a grim spell of almost three months without a win by crushing Serbian compatriot Dusan Lajovic in just 56 minutes.
Then, in the interview room, Djokovic addressed reports that there had been an acrimonious edge to his parting with former coach Andre Agassi.
It is true that, when he confirmed his coaching changes at the start of this month, he had barely mentioned Agassi, preferring to heap praise on another now-departed assistant, Radek Stepanek.
But when asked about Agassi’s decision to announce the split first – via an interview with ESPN that aired a fortnight ago – Djokovic played the issue down.
‘‘I don’t care who comes in and says things in the press first,’’ Djokovic replied. ‘‘I mean, nobody offended anybody. We’re still in a very good relation.
‘‘You have to understand that, first of all, we didn’t have any commitment. He was genuinely wanting to help and to give me advice and to share his experience with me. The last eight, nine months with Andre was just amazing.’’
The one mistake that Djokovic did admit on Monday was that he had raced back too quickly from elbow surgery in late January. With hindsight, he should not have participated in Indian Wells and Miami, the two big American events of the spring, where he suffered uncharacteristically listless defeats against a pair of unheralded opponents in Taro Daniel and Benoit Paire. On the back of his fourth-round exit from the Australian Open, this was the first time he had gone on such a lean run since 2007.
If Djokovic now appears to have put such struggles behind him, that may be because he has reunited with Marian Vajda, the avuncular Slovakian coach who had been his mentor and father figure since the age of 19. They stopped working together last May and Djokovic, frankly, has not been the same player since.
‘‘Today, finally after two years, I was pain-free,’’ Djokovic said.
‘‘Obviously having Marian is a lot of positive emotions. He knows me very well, so we worked on a lot of great things in the last 10 days. Physically I think I’m getting in a better shape as the weeks go by.’’
It is virtually unheard of for Djokovic to find himself in action on the Monday of Monte Carlo. On his last 10 visits, which include everything but his debut appearance in 2006, he has enjoyed the bye offered to the top eight seeds.
But Djokovic did not look at all disgruntled by his early start, grabbing the opportunity to ease into the tournament against a lesser opponent. His reward for this 6-0 6-1 demolition will be a much tougher-looking secondround meeting with athletic young Croatian Borna Coric, in the form of his life.
Novak Djokovic plays a backhand while on the move in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters.