Novak Djokovic's second round at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters wasn't easy. Everyone knew Gilles Simon would be a tough test for the Serbian. Nole was back playing an ATP tour match after the defeat against Nick Kyrgios, at Indian Wells.
And the Serbian champion won 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 after two hours of a physically and mentally tough match. Djokovic, more cynical than his opponent, in the crucial points of the match, was able to bring out the best when he needed it.
Yet the state of shape of the number two of the world still doesn't fully convince. Sometimes too short, he really struggled in the central part of the challenge. However we have to say the mental level showed glimpses of Djokovic of old.
Can Djokovic get any better on clay, and in general, in the rest of season? He can, of course. But, for the first time in his career, a lot will depend also on his opponents. We have to evaluate the whole situation. Nole is in a negative period, which has lasted since Wimbledon 2016.
The Serb has lost his confidence (in addition to the ATP throne), both at the technical and physical level, and by the mental level (perhaps his best weapon, in past seasons). On the positive side, in the match we've seen against Simon, there's just the will to win.
That level is back to get up in the decisive moments.The performance against Simon then appears in a double light. On the one hand, we have seen again the tennis player who can raise the bar when the match requires it. On the other hand, we saw all the uncertainties of the past ten months.
The answer may be this. If Nole will regain all certainty he needs, then the season on clay will mark his rebirth. In this case this would see him as a real star of the clay swing, and the rest of the season. His opponents on clay, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, will have their chances.
Nole currently appears to be a step behind Nadal, in mental and physical fitness. And, for once, even a notch below Roger Federer, although the Swiss will not play the clay season, at least up to Roland Garros. If Djokovic will find the right shape during the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, the courts will have perhaps found one of its biggest stars.