Djokovic still struggling mentally in battle to return to form

World number one Novak Djokovic said that he was still struggling mentally to get back to his best after missing the Australian Open and a chunk of the early season due to his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion was unable to defend his Australian Open title in January after being deported from the country, having initially been admitted to the tournament despite not taking the vaccine.

The 34-year-old also sat out ATP Masters 1000 events in Miami and Indian Wells.

"The challenge is definitely more on the mental and emotional side," Djokovic told a news conference on Sunday as he prepares to begin his Madrid Open campaign on Tuesday.

"Of course I have never experienced anything similar to what I experienced early this season and I did not know how that's going to affect me.

 It's not as powerful that it was in the first two, three months of the year. I feel like the more I play, the more I'm in this environment, the more comfortable I feel."

The Serbian's lack of match practice showed in his first two claycourt tournaments of the season.

Djokovic admitted that physically he "just ran out of gas" in his Monte-Carlo defeat but was glad that he had the opportunity to play four long matches in Serbia.