After an extended outdoor hard season dominated by Roger Federer, it's time to leave the Swiss star to catch his breath as the attention will shift to the European red clay swing and its gladiators competing in the field. A successful run in Davis Cup ensured Novak Djokovic (2 ATP) a proper comeback from an elbow injury he was subject to. Now, the former world no.1 and 12 times Grand Slam champion will lead half of the pack in Monte Carlo, the first significant event on clay of the season. Along the years, Djokovic witnessed some delightful moments here clinching two times the men's singles contest in the past back in 2013 and 2015.

Last year, the Serb suffered an early exit at the first attempt on clay of the season.

A lot of things changed during the past 12 months

Back in 2016, entering the Monte Carlo event, Djokovic was way ahead in the ranking. His dominance over the ATP circuit was clearer than ever. After being upset in Monte Carlo he went on winning in Madrid and also put his name for the first time on the French Open crown. In Rome, he was defeated by Andy Murray in the final battle. Djokovic vs Murray battling was the highlight of the previous season in men's tennis. The end of last year's clay swing also marked a new stage in Djokovic's career trajectory as his overall performance constantly declined. Regarding the time being, Novak Djokovic shares the bottom half of the draw with Rafael Nadal who won last year in Monte Carlo after defeating Gael Monfils in 3 sets.

With the Serb being the second seed and the Spaniard the fourth, a Djokovic vs Nadal match is only possible if they both reach the semis.

Why Monte Carlo is so important for Djokovic

Having to defend more than 3000 points from last year, Djokovic must deliver a high-quality and well-balanced tennis over the next two months. Still, Monte Carlo is the right place to reset his game being the sole clay event where he has almost to defend.

Besides, the draw is not quite bad, especially in the first rounds. And we all know that the Serb tends to become unstoppable once he gained some momentum. A top-seed seat in Monte Carlo means a bye for the first round and he will kick off the clay court campaign either against Gilles Simon (30 ATP) or Malek Jaziri (58 ATP).

Up until the quarterfinals, the Serb should be fine, but there the first test is set to emerge as Dominic Thiem, the 6th seed, is looming in the fourth quarter of the main draw. Another unusual fact is that Djokovic is short on titles this season having won a single ATP event back in January in Doha.