Novak Djokovic reveals Juan Martin del Potro inspiration after first French Open win
Novak Djokovic reflected on a testing period of injury struggles and revealed he had drawn inspiration from fellow ATP star Juan Martin del Potro. The Serb ended his 2017 early after retiring from his quarter-final clash with Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon and required a ‘small medical intervention’ after returning to action at the Australian Open. He described the stop-start nature of his return to the top of the sport as the most frustrating element of his recent injury woes, and although he described his first-round win over Rogerio Dutra Silva as ‘rusty’ he was satisfied to be fit and competing at Grand Slam level. Though there had been signs of the 12-time Grand Slam champion’s best form during the clay-court season, it took him time to adjust at Roland Garros during his first match back on Philippe-Chatrier. Djokovic downed Dutra Silva Getty Images) But he pointed to the fighting spirit of players like Del Potro and insisted the Argentine’s efforts have inspired him to continue working hard to rediscover his consistency of old. He said after his 6-3 6-4 6-4 win over the Brazilian qualifier: ‘Oh, well, I had to dig deep, if you can call it that way, especially when I, you know, came back to the tennis court after four months, four-and-a-half months after not playing tennis end of last year, and then the pain recurred, and I didn’t know in which direction, you know, that’s going to take me. ‘The season was behind a corner. I was not able to serve. Then I was put in a position to play Australian Open. I managed to find some temporary solutions. But in the end of the day, I had to make that – that surgery had to be done when the season was already in second month. That was frustrating, really. ‘It is what it is. I don’t regret anything. Again, I kept on saying that everything in life happens for a reason, and it’s on us to really figure out why certain things happen and try to learn from it. Del Potro has inspired Djokovic (Picture: NurPhoto via Getty Images) ‘You know, this sport has given me so much, and, you know, I don’t feel that I owe anything to the sport or the sport doesn’t owe anything to me. It’s just, you know, a relationship that is based on pure love and passion. ‘As long as I feel like I’m supposed to play, I’ll play. If, at the moment, I don’t feel like playing, I will not, and I don’t feel obliged by anyone but myself to be on the tennis court. I just try to remind myself why I started playing this sport, and that’s where I draw a lot of energy from. ‘You know, it’s a challenge. I mean, I’m not the first one to, first player in the history of this game to face these kind of circumstances with big injuries. Del Potro comes to mind. Munar will face Djokovic next (Picture: Getty) ‘He’s someone that has faced even worse, you know, challenging circumstances with two, three years of, you know, couple surgeries, coming back, playing, not playing really well, and then having to retire so many times. ‘And now he’s, you know, back to top-10, top-5 of the world. That’s impressive. Those kind of stories inspire you, and hopefully I can do the same.’ Djokovic will face 21-year-old Spaniard Jaume Munar in round two after he fought back against compatriot David Ferrer in a match lasting four hours and 15 minutes. Munar was two sets down against the experienced 36-year-old but clawed his way back into the match and booked a meeting with the former world No. 1.