Novak Djokovic said he is looking forward to the start of this week’s Miami Masters after admitting he is playing pain free for the first time in “years.”
The former world number one will continue his comeback in Key Biscayne after six months out with an elbow injury that saw him retire from his Wimbledon quarter-final last year.
His return has not gone well, with a fourth-round exit at January’s Australian Open followed by a loss in his first match at Indian Wells last week.
The manner of those defeats have raised fears that the 12-time slam winner will never reach the same heights that saw him hold all four major titles at the same time just two years ago.
The key for Djokovic, however, is that he finally go on court for the first time in years without having to battle pain.
“I actually started playing pain-free in the last two days. It’s quite refreshing because everything else had pain involved,” Djokovic told AFP.
“The last few days have been first in a long, long time that I could actually be focused on the game rather than have something in my mind and be worried about whether I am going to have pain or not.
“It’s the first time in years.”
The 30-year old added that after years of uninterrupted success, the injury break has helped him learn a great deal about himself.
“I have learned a lot about myself,” he said. “It’s been a great, great blessing to go through this. I’ve been very successful in this sport over the course of the last six, seven years and I’ve been very grateful to go through that.
“But I obviously have had to face different circumstances, situations that I’ve never faced before. Ever since I started professional tennis my trajectory was always going in the right direction and that has changed.
“So I had to open up and figure out things, how to move forward and get inspired and be the best version I can be.”
Djokovic has incorporated a baseball style exercise into his pre-match warm up as part of his rehabilitation, which he said is one of the compromises he has had to make following surgery.
“It’s one of the ways to warm up and get my body and my mind synchronised with a certain motion that I would like to have with my serve because that’s where I kind of compromise my elbow,” he said. “So I’m trying to strengthen the muscles and get into a certain motion that would support the best possible serve.
“I am not yet at my best. Every day is a process for me and it’s an opportunity to learn, to grow and get better after the two years of injury and trying to figure out ways how to play pain free.
“I have had to modify a lot of things in my game to accept it. When I made this intervention, obviously it’s pretty invasive and unfortunately in the end it had to be done.
“It also carries certain consequences but right now, I’m not playing with the pain which is the most important thing.
“All I can do now is to try to embrace the process every day.”