Novak Djokovic is gearing up for just his second tournament of 2022 at the Monte Carlo Masters, and the Serbian world No 1 admitted his absence from tournaments due to his stance on vaccination is taking its toll.
Djokovic's only appearance this year was at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February, where he lost to Jiri Vesely in the quarter-finals.
His ordeal started when he was deported from Australia in January, denying him the chance to defend his Australian Open title because he had not been vaccinated.
Thereafter, he had to miss tournaments in Indian Wells, California and Miami because he couldn’t travel to the United States for the same reason.
"I hope I won't play six matches in six months! The past three to four months have been really difficult for me, mentally and emotionally. But here I am. I'll leave all that behind and move on," Djokovic said ahead of the Monte Carlo Masters.
"I don't think it will leave insurmountable traces, far from it. I'll try to use it as fuel."
Djokovic also briefly lost his world No 1 ranking to Daniil Medvedev, although he is now back on top of the table.
"I understand that I probably won't be at my best at the beginning of this week," added Djokovic.
"I am still testing my engine, so to speak, and building my game, so it will take obviously some time, some matches to really get in the groove and find the competitive play that I really need."
He started training for Monte Carlo over the weekend. Djokovic even took time out from his training to play some football – with a giant tennis ball – with Paris-Saint Germain stars Neymar and Marco Verratti, who watched the matches in Monaco on Monday.
Djokovic plays Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Tuesday.