Novak Djokovic of Serbia, right, and Andy Murray of Britain pose for photographers before an exhibition match, in front of the Casino of Monte-Carlo, in Monaco, Saturday, April 13, 2013, during the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters tournament. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)The Associated Press
Novak Djokovic of Serbia serves the ball to Andy Murray of Britain during an exhibition match, in front of the Casino of Monte-Carlo, in Monaco, Saturday, April 13, 2013, during the Monte Carlo Tennis Masters tournament. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)The Associated Press
MONACO – Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is unsure whether he'll play at the Monte Carlo Masters this week, even though he is optimistic his right ankle injury is healing.
The Serb twisted his ankle on April 7 during the quarterfinal of the Davis Cup against the United States. Tests showed the damage was not as serious as Djokovic feared, and he's been training with his coach for the past three days before his scheduled second-round match on Wednesday.
But Djokovic, who lost to eight-time champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets in last year's final, says he won't take any risks.
"I can't 100 percent guarantee that I'll be on the court on Wednesday," Djokovic said Sunday. "I still have to be realistic and see if on some practices in the next few days I push myself to the limit, if I'm going to have any discomfort."
Djokovic, who has a home in Monte Carlo, will only play if he thinks he's full strength.
"It's a very strong tournament and I don't think there is any room for compromise," he said. "To compete at such a high level I need to be at 100 percent. I know there's a lot of people who expect me to be there and want me to be there — I want myself to be there more than anybody."
He's concerned about compromising his clay-court season leading up the French Open, which begins next month.
"Any bigger damage could indicate a longer period of recovery and no tennis," he said. "But being on the court the last three days for me is already a great sign."
He potentially faces either Mikhail Youzhny or Daniel Gimeno-Traver on Wednesday, and then a possible quarterfinal against fifth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.
"I'll decide on Tuesday at the latest," he said. "I can't give you a percentage but I'm more optimistic than I was at the beginning of the week, that's for sure."
Djokovic was hurt during his win against Sam Querrey as he lifted Serbia to an insurmountable 3-1 lead. Having led Serbia to victory in 2010, Djokovic is fully committed to Davis Cup but thinks the scheduling and format must change.
"This is the only official team competition we have in sport and that is the reason why it has a unique place in our career," he said. "Unfortunately, it comes at a very bad timing. Right after Australia, right after US Open, right after Miami. It comes after a very long period of tournaments, and most of the top players reach the final stages of those tournaments."
Djokovic thinks a set period of the year should be cleared for it.
"One of my ideas is to have two weeks say, once per year, or once every two years, at least for the world group, that can gather 16 teams," he said. "Then everybody competes, you know, during those two weeks and then you have the final four or something like that."
Nadal is bidding for ninth straight Monte Carlo title.
The Spaniard has reached four consecutive finals since returning from a seven-month injury layoff, winning three.
Nadal has a 44-1 record at Monte Carlo, winning 42 consecutive matches and has not lost here since a third-round defeat to Guillermo Coria in 2003. He missed the 2004 tournament through injury.
He could possibly face second-ranked Andy Murray in the semifinals.
Murray feels he is in better shape than at the same time last year, when he was hampered by back problems. He expects his back to remain an issue for the remainder of his career, but has taken steps to avoid making it worse.
"I think it's something that will be with me always," he said. "I used to play a lot of different sports. I used to play a lot of football and golf. I've stopped all of that stuff now (and) it's been better the last few months."