But after winning the first set against clay-court stalwart Dominic Thiem, Djokovic could not maintain his level as the Austrian upped his, eventually losing in a three-setter in the Round of 16 after two hours and 29 minutes. "He's still there", Djokovic said. The Swiss star is now scheduled for Madrid and Roland Garros.
"He took advantage, he broke me directly and then I started to play a little bit better. If they meet and Novak comes out on top in them, especially on clay, I think it will be hard mentally for Rafa at Roland Garros".
"Anytime you play on your home court, you just feel more comfortable".
The Monte-Carlo Masters, one of ATP 1000 tournaments on clay, is underway until Sunday. "He's got a better title chance at tournaments other than Roland Garros, but he has won it in the past (2009)".
"If he gets pushed too far back against Novak on this court, Novak's drop shots are going to be a huge weapon here".
Kohlschreiber beat Djokovic in Indian Wells a month ago and the pair have been drawn to face each other again this afternoon.
After winning the Australian Open, Djokovic had a blip few saw coming when he failed to reach the quarterfinals at both Indian Wells and the Miami Open.
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"Other than those two tournaments, the others I have played (in the past year) were at least, I think, semifinals or finals, most of the tournaments I played. That can serve only as an incentive".
Nadal - himself a 17-time grand slam champion - knows a thing or two about returning from injury to prosper on the world stage, and the Spaniard paid tribute to Woods as he prepares to begin his campaign for a 12th Monte Carlo Masters crown.
Djokovic said beating Nadal in a French Open final would top the lot, but as the clay-court season begins in earnest this week, he knows doing it will be extremely hard.
"I think Rafa is obviously always a very clear favourite on any clay court in the world and that doesn't change".
"I don't see any particular issues for him on this (slow) surface". "If he's physically fit he's definitely the No. 1 guy on this surface, without a doubt".
"After him, it's quite open".
Nadal arrived in Monte Carlo on Friday and has looked good in practice and appeared relaxed in his media commitments away from the court - usually a good sign of his state of mind. But he says Rafa is the man to beat.
"So I think from his perspective he's going to have to play maybe somewhat counter-intuitive on the clay, talking about the spin".
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