Djokovic’s comeback efforts suffered another setback with a first round loss to No. 140 ranked Martin Klizan at the Barcelona clay tournament, 2-6 6-1 3-6.
It just seems like Novak Djokovic can’t get a break. After stopping his three-sets losing streak at the Monte Carlo Masters event last week, he’s out with another shock first-round loss in Barcelona.
Although Djokovic lost to Dominic Thiem in his third match in Monte Carlo, the performance he put on with the first two wins over Dusan Lajovic and then Borna Coric there reminded many fans of the old Djokovic and had them hoping he would continue to capitalize and build on his success in the upcoming tournaments, sort of like Kei Nishikori in Monte Carlo.
“I’m really pleased that I’m able to be healthy, to train, to put a lot of hours on the court and slowly build my game,” Djokovic said after the Monaco tournament, according to Express.
“Because I know that I’m not still at my best and for that I need time. How long? I don’t know but I feel like in Monte-Carlo already, I was putting some good matches together.”
The two match wins were the first signs of improvement for the 12-time grand slam champion during a rather dismal season, with first round losses in the Australian Open, and high profile events such as Indian Wells and the Miami Open.
The Serb has had a string of achievements on the clay surface in the past, culminating in winning the elusive French Open grand slam in 2016. What a comeback story it would be if the 30 year-old could build up to another title there, even if the chances are pretty remote with a certain ‘undecima’ king called Nadal in the mix.
“I think my game has improved on this surface,” the 30 year-old said in an ATP interview.
“Winning [the French Open] 2016 was obviously the highlight of my clay-court career, but I won also Rome, Madrid, big tournaments, and Monte-Carlo, and plenty of other good results.
“But obviously there’s a guy named Rafael Nadal who is always on the way to winning more ‘big titles’ and he still keeps on dominating this surface, and he’s definitely always the guy to beat.”
The Career Slam champ has been struggling with his comeback effort since being out of the game the last half of 2017. Nadal surpassed his record for Masters 1000 titles last week with the win at Monte Carlo (31). The Serb also saw his ranking dip down to No. 14 a few months ago, but with the run in Monaco, he’s back up to No. 12.
However, if further losses continue, he’s likely to stay out of the Top 10 and fall further down in the ATP rankings.
“I’ve had a very difficult time in the last 12 months with the injury and everything else that’s happened,” Djokovic said after his first match win in Monte Carlo. “I’m lacking matches and a bit of confidence on court. But I’m looking ahead.”
One positive sign is progress with the elbow injury that has plagued Djokovic since last year.
“Monte Carlo was probably my first tournament where I played without pain and without thinking what can happen with my elbow,” he said earlier.
It looks like the Serb will be trying to figure things out again after this latest loss in Barcelona, before he moves on to the next tournament, The Mutua Madrid Open, where he’s won twice. Maybe it will be a one-step forward, two steps-back situation. Back with his old coach since the beginning of the clay season, clocking in more competitive match play, and playing without pain or fear will certainly help as he bravely struggles forward.