Djokovic eyes Nadal's French Open title
Novak Djokovic can cast his hopes forward a month to the start of Roland Garros with serious thoughts of a Paris title after stunning Rafael Nadal to win a first career trophy at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The Serb world No 1, who was almost unable to start the prestige clay week due to an ankle injury, consulted with his doctors on a daily basis before deciding to take a chance.
The week-long gamble eventually paid off with a 6-2, 7-6 (7/1) win over Nadal which ended the Spaniard's 46-match win streak, comprising eight consecutive titles at the cliffside Country Club.
With his next date on court not for another fortnight in Madrid, Djokovic can fully heal and plot his strategy on the clay as he prepares to bid for the French Open crown which is missing from his Grand Slam collection.
Last year's losing finalist to Nadal in Paris believes his chances are becoming stronger to finally lift the clay court major.
"This trophy could not come at a better moment for me. It was a difficult last two months. I've been through some ups and downs emotionally, physically," Djokovic said.
"But I'm right in the place where I want to be this moment confidence wise, game-wise. I just need to do what I have done always: stay committed, to rest well, prepare well.
"And then I have the next two weeks for those things, getting ready for next challenge."
Djokovic is determined in pursuit of his next goal: "Of course, I want to win Roland Garros. That's no secret.
"But I need to keep on having the right positive mindset for the next tournaments that are also very important. (And) just trying to stay healthy."
Though he still trails 19-15 in his career series with Nadal, Djokovic is confident of improving that ratio in the coming months.
"We've played so many times. It's true that in the end it's very mental on the highest possible level when you're playing for trophies, big tournaments.
"Physically you're ready, you're getting ready, your game is there. Mentally, emotionally if you manage to cope with pressure in those tough moments, manage to play your best, you have a better chance of winning.
"I'm filled with joy when I play this sport. It's a huge driving force for me to be able to perform my best always.
"Of course, that kind of focused winning mentality. I think I have enough success in my career that gives me enough reason to have that kind of particular mindset."
Nadal, the holder of a record seven French Open titles, may have seen his decade-long run in Monte Carlo end, but the Spaniard is certainly not discouraged.
The eternally optimistic left-hander just wants to keep working on his game after sitting out seven months with a knee injury and only coming back to the courts in February and earning three titles.
"I think I'm in the right way, five finals in a row. If you told me that four months before, I will be crying with emotion," said Nadal.
"I'm just very happy to be able to play against the best players of the world another time, and play with real chances. That's very, very important for me, it's fantastic."