Former world number one Novak Djokovic showed signs of a return to form with a 6-0, 6-1 thrashing of fellow Serb Dusan Lajovic in the Monte Carlo Masters first round on Monday.
It was an impressive performance from the 30-year-old in his first match since splitting from coach Andre Agassi and starting to work again with long-time former coach Marian Vajda.
Djokovic is ranked 13th in the world after lengthy spells off the court with a right elbow injury that he said left him unable to even “impersonate a tennis serve”.
“The pain was a huge factor that was affecting my overall state, my mind,” Djokovic said.
“A lot of things had to be left aside, compensated because the elbow was not healed.
“But today, you know, (I’m) pain-free.”
Djokovic has been training with Vajda for 10 days in the run-up to the tournament, having originally parted ways with the Slovak after last year’s Monte Carlo Masters.
“I’m very happy as he (Vajda) is more than a coach. He’s more like a brother, a father,” he said.
“It’s a fresh start I think for both of us. I missed him. I have a feeling that he missed me or tennis or both,” he said after his first-round win.
The Serb had a small surgery on his right elbow to recover from an injury that he says has troubled him for two years now.
“The intervention was done right, and I came back already after five weeks on the court from the moment I had the surgery. That’s amazing.
I still obviously wasn’t ready game-wise, physically. So Indian Wells and Miami were really kind of a struggle on the court for me mentally. I know that I can play much better than that, but I couldn’t. I just wasn’t ready,” he added.
“The reality is I’ve played six or seven matches since July. I’m lacking matches and a bit of confidence on court. But I’m looking ahead.”
Djokovic dominated from the outset as Lajovic struggled, and despite some nervy moments on serve in the second set, wrapped up the match in under an hour to book a second-round meeting with Borna Coric.
It was the 12-time Grand Slam champion’s first win at a regular ATP Tour event this season, after losing his opening matches in Indian Wells and Miami to Taro Daniel and Benoit Paire respectively.
With inputs from AFP