‘Clay is a strategic surface – you have to grind to win,’ says Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic has described clay as a very ‘strategic surface’ as he prepares to play his first match since the Australian Open final. 

The world number one tore his abdomen during the first Grand Slam of the season, which he won to claim the 18th major of his career.

The injury required some downtime afterwards, though, with him subsequently withdrawing from the Miami Masters last month.

He will return at Monte-Carlo this week, though, and he knows he will need to approach the clay season with a different mindset.

“I think clay requires a lot of adjustments,” Novak Djokovic explained. “The ball bounces irregularly. It’s quite unpredictable at times.

“If the courts are not in a perfect state — which is normal if you have rain, wind, different conditions that can affect the condition of the court — then obviously mentally you just have to stay out there.

“I will use this term ‘grind’ [for what you have to do] mentally and physically more than any other surface.

“It can be very frustrating at times, because sometimes you just feel like maybe you can’t make a winner, you can’t make an easy point with your serve like you usually do on the other surfaces.

“It requires a tactical and definitely technical adjustment. The positioning on the court has to vary all the time.

“A lot of guys, including myself, who usually attacks the return on other faster surfaces, on clay I would probably be more optional there, maybe mix it up, go back from deep in the court, send a looping topspin, then try to get into the rally.

“It’s a very strategic surface that requires a lot of strategic thinking and tactical adjustment.”

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