Novak Djokovic encouraged by Andy Murray’s performance in training

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Novak Djokovic gave an encouraging assessment of Andy Murray’s prospects for his latest comeback after practising with the Scot in Rome.

Murray has travelled to the Italian capital to test himself against some of the world’s best players in training ahead of a likely competitive return in Lyon or Geneva next week.

The three-time grand slam champion has not played a match since the ATP tournament in Rotterdam in early March after picking up a groin injury in his sleep ahead of the Miami Open.

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After hitting with Diego Schwartzman on Sunday, Murray had a practice session with world number one Djokovic at the Foro Italico on Monday.

Djokovic, who is a week younger than Murray and has been a rival since their junior days, said: “I was very happy to see him. I haven’t seen him in a while, and it was great to hit with him.

“I thought he played very well on the court. He moves well considering it’s clay, which is not the best surface for his hips.

“But, considering what he has been through lately, I think it seems like he’s been feeling well on the court. That’s what he’s saying, and that’s what it appears on the court itself.

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“We had a nice chat and had a few laughs on the court as well. It was just great. It brought back the old times when we spent a lot of time on the court together, whether it was training or playing against each other.”

Djokovic skipped the Madrid Open last week and will hope to find his feet on the clay at the Italian Open after shock defeats to Britain’s Dan Evans in Monte-Carlo and Aslan Karatsev on home soil in Belgrade.

The soon-to-be 34-year-old has cut back his schedule after achieving one of his major goals by overtaking Roger Federer to record the most weeks at world number one in men’s tennis history.

His main target is now catching and overtaking Federer and Rafael Nadal’s tally of 20 grand slam titles, and he said: “It is a different schedule from what I had for so many years. Of course it does feel different. I don’t want to say strange because it’s not strange.

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“I’m actually looking forward to take that next step in my career and my life where I’m going to spend more time with my family and just do other things that interest me.

“But, at the same time, I do play a specific amount of tournaments that would prepare me as best as possible for the grand slams. I didn’t play so great in Monaco and Belgrade, but I’m hopefully going to change that here in Rome and then another week in Belgrade before the French (Open).

“Four tournaments before the French is I think enough in terms of the match play. So I’m building my fitness and I’m building my game slowly step by step in order to peak in Paris. That’s definitely where I want to play my best.”

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