Djokovic hits fast forward in Monte Carlo

by Scott Williams, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 14 2014 08:23 PM | Updated as of Apr 15 2014 04:23 AM

MONACO - Novak Djokovic believes he has hit the reset button on his 2014 season at exactly the right moment as the world number two enters the Monte Carlo Masters eager to begin his title defence.

The Serb, who is based in the principality, ended Rafael Nadal's eight-year title streak a year ago although the Spaniard still went on to defend his French Open crown.

Djokovic said he was bolstered by his back-to-back Masters trophies from the US last month as he beat Roger Federer in Indian Wells and topped Nadal for a third straight match to win Miami honours.

"I'm excited to be defending, but I don't change the way that I approach any event," said the second seed, who now has coach Boris Becker back in his corner after the German's recent hip surgery.

"My state of mind right now is all that I had hoped for, I do have confidence, especially after a slow start to this season.

"Going onto the clay always feels like a new beginning, it will be very important to start well, hopefully with another win. But then again, with the level of competition out there, no one can predict anything."

Djokovic enters the competition at the Monte Carlo Country Club riding a 10-match win streak after completing the Indian-Wells-Miami double for the first time in his career. He stands 20-6 in Monte Carlo.

Djokovic is seeking to become the fifth player to successfully defend his crown in Monte Carlo following Bjorn Borg (1980), Thomas Muster (1996), Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003) and Nadal (2006-2012).

Top seed Nadal, meanwhile, is trying to keep the pressure on himself as low as reasonably possible.

Spain's world number one said that he goes into his most potent period of the year unsure of anything except the fact that nothing will be easy.

The 27-year-old admitted on Sunday that the last time he played truly well on the surface he loves was the 2013 Roland Garros final, when he won the grand slam title for an eighth time.

"This is an important part of the season for everyone, not just me," said the Spaniard.

"I don't automatically switch from hardcourt to clay, I need time to make the adjustment. I only play on clay for five -- maximum six -- tournaments per year, I need time to adapt."

Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka takes the third seeding, with the Australian Open winner over Nadal eager to show that he can hang with the elite and live up to his ranking of third.

Roger Federer, the fourth seed and a late wild card entry, was arriving on Sunday as he competes in Monte Carlo for the first time since 2011 where he lost in the quarter-finals to Jurgen Melzer.

First-round play got underway on Sunday, with 17th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov beating Latvian Ernests Gulbis, 6-2, 6-4.

Jeremy Chardy earned a French win, beating Igor Sijsling of the Netherlands, 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/5).

Russian Dmitry Tursunov defeated Holland's Robin Haase 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 while Austrian youngster Dominic Thiem went down to Nicolas Mahut, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse