Apr 12, 2022 - Sports

Novak Djokovic begins second tournament of a bumpy 2022

Novak Djokovic practices ahead of the Monte-Carlo Masters.

Novak Djokovic practices ahead of the Monte-Carlo Masters. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic begins his clay-court season today at the Monte-Carlo Masters, where he faces Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Why it matters: This is just his second tournament of the year, and first since February, as the unvaccinated superstar looks to move past the debacle of his own making.

"The last four, five months have been really challenging for me mentally and emotionally, but here I am. I try to leave all of that behind me and move on," he said.

Catch up quick: Djokovic's year began with January's 11-day Australian saga that resulted in his deportation, an Australian Open withdrawal and a three-year visa ban (which could end early).

  • In February, he lost his No. 1 ranking for the first time in two years after a quarterfinal exit in the Dubai Tennis Championships, though he regained the top spot three weeks later.
  • In March, he missed both the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California, and the Miami Open because his unvaccinated status barred him from entering the U.S.
  • But when France — and Monaco, where Djokovic lives — last month lifted most of its COVID restrictions, it cleared the way for him to compete at both Monte Carlo and next month's French Open, where he's the reigning champ.

What they're saying: Everything above stemmed from Djokovic's decision not to be vaccinated — a choice that at least one person found baffling given the potentially lofty consequences.

  • "If you're trying to be the best in history and you're going to give up the race for some vaccines, you have to be the king of stupidity," former world No. 1 Marcelo Ríos told La Tercera. "I believe that at first it was out of fear, but now he is being too arrogant."

The big picture: Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open in Djokovic's absence, putting the Spaniard alone at the top with 21 grand slam victories (Djokovic and Roger Federer are tied at 20).

  • This clay-court tune-up in Monte Carlo should improve Djokovic's chances of winning next month at Roland Garros and tying Nadal on the grand slam leaderboard.
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