World number one Novak Djokovic has said his victory at the Italian Open has been a perfect time to find form as he seeks to retain the French Open crown after mixed results earlier on the court.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner was ousted by Alejandro David Fokin in early Monte Carlo and Andrei Rublev in the final in Belgrade in April before he fell to teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals in Madrid this month.

Unable to defend his Australian Open title due to a refusal to vaccinate against COVID-19, Djokovic won his first title in more than six months when he won in Rome last week without missing a set.

“This surface is the most demanding, it requires a lot of effort mentally, emotionally, physically,” Djokovic told reporters on Friday. “It has historically taken me some time and a few tournaments to really feel comfortable playing on the ground.

“Row I felt better on the ground in the first or second tournament of the season. So it was this season. It took me two tournaments to really feel like I was getting close to the desired level.

“Rome has been a very successful tournament for me in my career and it really happened at the right time. I always managed to get to the last stages of this tournament just a week before Paris, the perfect time to really find shape. “

Hoping to leave his turbulent start to the season behind, Djokovic said 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafa Nadal and Alcaras in uniform were among the favorites to win at Roland Garros, but added that he was confident of repeating his success last year.

Djokovic, who turns 35 on Sunday when he starts defending his title against Japan’s Yoshihito Nisioki, will win 21 Grand Slam titles if he wins in Paris.

“Nadal should always be at the top because of his records, especially in this tournament,” said Djokovic. “And you have Alcaras, which is the history of men’s tennis over the last four or five months … He has made a quantum leap forward.

“I feel like I’m always fighting for any Grand Slam trophy. I believe in my own abilities. I believe in my own ability to go far and fight for one of the most prestigious trophies in the world of tennis.

“As a reigning champion, of course, more than that (I) believe I can do it again. Restoring last year’s memories obviously makes me goosebumps and motivate me to try to do it again. ”

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