nJovac Djokovic is ready to move forward from the controversy over his refusal to vaccinate against COVID-19.
“I miss the competition,” the Serbian tennis star said on Sunday on the opening day of the clay court season at the Monte Carlo Masters in Monaco. “I still feel motivated to be on the Tour and compete… and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles.”
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has only played one tournament so far in 2022, losing to Jerry Vesely in the Dubai Championship quarter-finals.
Djokovic was unable to defend his Australian Open title in January after being deported from the country for not being vaccinated.
Recently, he had to skip tournaments in Indian Wells, California and Miami because he couldn’t travel to the US for the same reason.
He announced that he would not get the vaccine until he could compete.
It was a turbulent start to 2022 for Djokovic, who underwent detention and a court case during an 11-day saga in Australia before being sent home and not allowed to defend his title at Melbourne Park.
Rafael Nadal went on to win the 21st Australian Open, breaking the tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer.
At the end of February, Djokovic lost his No. 1 ranking for the first time in two years, dropping to second place behind Daniil Medvedev, before reclaiming the top spot.
On March 1, Djokovic announced that he and coach Marian Vajda had separated after 15 years together.
“The past four or five months have been very difficult for me mentally and emotionally, but here I am and I’m trying to leave all that behind and move on,” Djokovic said on Sunday.
Djokovic said that what happened in Australia did not affect his ability to win.
“I don’t feel like he left so many scars on me that I am unable to train, participate in tournaments or live my life,” Djokovic said. “I’ll try to use that as fuel for what’s to come.”
Its opening match is scheduled to take place in Monaco on Tuesday.
Authorities in France and Monaco lifted most COVID-19 restrictions last month, allowing people who had not been vaccinated to enter the country and return to restaurants, sports arenas and other venues.
With the 2021 French Open title still on his mind, Djokovic declared the mud in Monaco the best surface for his comeback even though “historically it has not been my most successful surface”.
“I will try to use (the French Open) as an inspiration to start the claycourt season in the best possible way,” Djokovic said. “I understand that I probably won’t be at my best, especially at first.”
“It’s going to take some time, some matches to get into the groove,” he added.
The French Open begins on May 22 in Paris.