Djokovic: ‘I Was Hanging On The Ropes The Entire Match’

Despite being disappointed after his stunning second-round Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters loss on Tuesday, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic was quick to praise the man who defeated him, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

“I would like to congratulate Alejandro. He was the better player. He managed to find a better rhythm I think in the first two sets,” Djokovic said. “I was hanging on the ropes the entire match. I was really chasing the result constantly.”

It seemed the two-time tournament champion would take over the match after escaping the second-set tie-break, in which he was two points from losing in straight sets. The Serbian urged the crowd to get involved and had a big smile on his face as the fans cheered for him

But Davidovich Fokina never went away. Although Djokovic battled until the end, he was unable to raise his level consistently enough to claw past the Spaniard.

“I always believed that I could come back and win the match, and I stayed there even though a lot of things were against me in terms of how I felt on the court. Game-wise, physically I was just far from my best,” Djokovic said. “So of course in those types of conditions and circumstances, then you have to really work two times more than you normally would. And again, I played a clay-court specialist. He had a match already on centre court a few days ago.

“I expected this match to be [a] really tough match, [a] physical battle, and that’s what it was. Unfortunately I’m on the shorter end of the stick, and my week ends here.”

Djokovic has not advanced past the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo since 2015, the last time he won the title. The slow start to his clay-court season did not surprise the Serbian.

“I knew a few days ago when I spoke to you that it’s going to take some time for me to really feel my best on the clay,” Djokovic said. “That’s historically always been the case. [I have] never played very well in the opening tournaments of the clay season.

“But it’s okay. Obviously it is what it is. I have to accept the defeat and keep working.”

What concerned the World No. 1 most was how he felt in the deciding set, in which he won just 45 per cent of his service points.

“I didn’t like the way I felt physically in the third. I just ran out of the gas completely,” Djokovic said. “Just couldn’t really stay in the rally with him. I mean, if you can’t stay in the rally, not feeling your legs on the clay, it’s mission impossible.”

The 34-year-old does not have much time to get back on track. Djokovic will be in action next week on home soil at the Serbia Open in Belgrade.

“I’m going to look with my team into reasons why that was the case and go back to the drawing board,” Djokovic said. “Hopefully next week will be better in Belgrade.”

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