Novak Djokovic intends to use the difficult experiences he’s had this year as a result of being unprotected against COVID-19 as fire for the rest of the season, the world number one said on Sunday, ahead of his comeback to action in Monte Carlo.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner was unable to defend his Australian Open title in January after being deported from the nation after being accepted to the event despite not having had the vaccine.

He had to miss events in Indian Wells, California, and Miami recently because he couldn’t fly to the US for the same reason as well.

He has stated that he will not take the vaccine in order to compete.

Djokovic had a rocky start to 2022, going through imprisonment and a court case during an 11-day drama in Australia before being sent home and barred from defending his championship at Melbourne Park.

“I try to be optimistic in life and consider myself a very optimistic, positive person,” Serbian Djokovic told reporters. “I take lessons available in every experience, particularly in something as large as what happened in January.

“Once I start playing matches… I will obviously have to deal with everything that probably has been dormant inside and is maybe waiting to come out!

“I don’t feel it has left huge scars that I’m unable to train or participate in tournaments or live my life… far from that.

“But it has been a challenging few months and something I never experienced before. So I will try to use that as a fuel for what’s coming up.”

Monaco challenge

Last month, authorities in France and Monaco relaxed most COVID-19 restrictions, enabling unvaccinated persons to enter the country and return to restaurants, sports arenas, and other locations.

With his French Open win from 2021 still fresh in his mind, Djokovic declared that the clay in Monaco is the greatest surface for his comeback, despite the fact that “historically, it has not been my most successful surface.”

“I will try to use [the French Open title] as an inspiration to kick-start the clay court season the best possible way,” Djokovic said. “I understand that I probably won’t be at my best, particularly at the beginning.”

“I still feel motivated to be on the Tour and compete with young guys and try to challenge the best players in the world for the biggest titles,” Djokovic said in his pre-tournament press conference.

“I’m very pleased to be here and Monaco has been home for over ten years. I have been eagerly waiting for the moment when I will be out competing again, so this is the best place where I could possibly start.”

He added that “it will take some time, some matches to really get in the groove.”