Djokovic Relieved To Be Feeling Pain Free
Novak Djokovic's right elbow is pain-free for the first time in years.
The Serbian, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, said he's played without pain for the past “two days”. The former World No. 1 has been bothered by discomfort in his right elbow for the past two years. The injury led Djokovic to take off the final four months of the 2017 season, and he underwent surgery on the elbow in February.
“The last few days have been the first days in long, long time that I could actually focus on the game rather than have something in my mind always worried whether I'm going to have pain or not, and usually it happened,” Djokovic said on Tuesday during his pre-tournament press conference at the Miami Open presented by Itau. “It's quite refreshing because everything else was pain involved.”
The Serbian has played only five matches this season (3-2), a strong contrast from years past when he arrived at the season's second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament. Five previous times Djokovic had landed in South Florida chasing the “Sunshine Double”, and he pulled off the March sweep a record four times.
But the 30-year-old still has a chance at history. The six-time champion (2007, 2011, 2012, 2014-'16) is tied with coach Andre Agassi for the all-time titles lead. Djokovic is also tied with Rafael Nadal for the all-time Masters 1000 titles lead at 30. This is the 32nd and final year the tournament will be held at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne before relocating to Hard Rock Stadium next year.
“This year is a special year for this tournament because it's the last year on Key Biscayne. So we're going to all try to enjoy it, and take the best out of it,” Djokovic said.
“For me, obviously approaching the tournament this year is quite different than any other year because of what I've been through with my elbow and everything. I don't have expectations really.”
The Serbian said he's not thinking about how he'd perform against Roger Federer, his rival who has reclaimed No. 1 in the ATP Rankings and reached the BNP Paribas Open final on Sunday (l. to Del Potro). For now, Djokovic is focused on simpler things, such as playing at 100 per cent again.
“I'm not yet at my best but I'm working to get there. Every day is a process for me and is an opportunity to learn, to grow, to get better. Obviously the two years of an injury and trying to figure out ways how to play pain-free, which I wasn't able to a lot of times in the last couple years, were compromising my game,” Djokovic said.
“Right now I'm not playing with the pain, which is the most important thing, and I can actually start focusing on the game rather than thinking about whether the pain is going to reappear or not.”