package in Madrid, Novak Djokovic’s thwarted clay season, five weeks from Roland-Garros

Expected by the entire tennis microcosm, the first confrontation of the season between the world number one, Novak Djokovic, and his runner-up in the standings, the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, will wait. On Saturday April 22, the organizers of the Madrid tournament (from April 24 to May 7) formalized the Serbian’s package.

Five weeks before Roland-Garros (from May 28 to June 11), the boss of the circuit is definitely experiencing a thwarted start to the season on clay. After an elimination in the round of 16 of the Masters 1000 of Monte-Carlo, on April 13, beaten by the Italian Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic took the door, Friday, in the quarter-finals in Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina), tournament of second category (ATP 250) which this year replaces the one usually organized in Belgrade. Facing his compatriot Dusan Lajovic (70e world), the eldest appeared borrowed, far from his standards (6-4, 7-6). “I was below my levelacknowledged the 35-year-old player. Honestly, I didn’t feel good on the court, my balls and my legs were soft. I was too passive and made a lot of mistakes. »

Djokovic had arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina with some questions about his current form, diminished by discomfort in his right elbow in Monaco. For his entry into the running on Wednesday, he had already been jostled by the young Frenchman Luca Van Assche (87e) and needed three sets 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 to get rid of it, still wearing a sleeve on his right forearm at the start of the match.

A season focused on Grand Slam tournaments

Despite this new early defeat, the Serb did not want to be alarmist when projecting himself at Porte d’Auteuil, the high point of the season on ochre. “For Roland Garros. It’s not a secret. It’s the tournament where I want to play my best tennis, and I’m working on it. There, the conditions are completely different compared to Monte Carlo and Banja Luka. We’ll see. There are still quite a few weeks to play and to train.”he assured.

In Monte-Carlo, where he was making his return after a month without competition (his non-vaccination against Covid-19 deprived him of the Masters 1000 in Indian Wells and Miami), he had repeated how much the crushed brick is a treacherous surface which traditionally takes time to successfully tame. “Clay is the most demanding surface for me to adapt and get into the rhythm, I always needed one or two weeks of tournaments to play the way I wanted, he developed after his entry into the running. It takes me longer than others, that’s how it is. I’m not really anxious, I try to do better every year, because that’s my mentality. But I repeat, clay is not like other surfaces. »

All smiles in front of the public as in front of the journalists on his arrival on the Rock, the world number one had given in to cold anger after his elimination. He had dispatched his press conference in less than two minutes, as much as the questions about his right elbow. ” I can not say anything. I’m ok. How are you. Congratulations to [Musetti]. Let’s move on. »

gross unforced errors

His three games in Banja Luka will not have reassured on this point, where he gave the impression of not fully committing to his face-offs, watering his games with gross unforced errors unworthy of his rank. Semi-finalist in Madrid in 2022, Djokovic will lose his points and could give up his place of world number one in favor of Alcaraz if the latter, defending champion, does not lose prematurely at home.

Before the start of Monte-Carlo, the winner of the Australian Open in January had repeated that he was focusing his season on the Grand Slam tournaments. “Of course, I choose the events where I want to perform the best, and that concerns the Grand Slam tournaments, that’s no secret. And in my head, Roland-Garros is present every day, he said, he who is aiming for a 23e Major title. Some breaks are scheduled in my calendar. When they are voluntary, it is better…”

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Will he come to Rome (from May 10 to 21), the last stop before reaching the Porte d’Auteuil? His participation will obviously be scrutinized before sounding the alarm…just like that of his great rival, Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic’s withdrawal from the Madrid tournament comes two days after the Spaniard posted a video on social media, where he explains that he will not be able to travel to Madrid. Still in trouble with his psoas injury contracted in Melbourne in January, Nadal, who will turn 37 on June 3, has not played in competition since his defeat in the second round of the Australian Open on January 18. . The race against time continues for the defending champion, winner in 2022 of his fourteenth Musketeers Cup, down today to 14e world rank.

Read also: Rafael Nadal, still injured, gives up the Madrid tournament and worries about a month from Roland-Garros

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