Novak Djokovic remains confident he can rediscover his best form despite suffering elimination from the Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday.
The former world number one is on the comeback trail from the elbow injury that curtailed his 2017 season after being knocked out of the Wimbledon quarter-finals by Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic has endured a difficult return to the ATP Tour, going down to Hyeon Chung in the last 16 at the Australian Open and losing his opening matches in Indian Wells and Miami.
The Serbian defeated compatriot Dusan Lajovic and then Croatian Borna Coric before going down 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 6-3 to Dominic Thiem in Monte Carlo, but he is still sure of reaching his previous heights once more.
"Ideally, I'd want to be playing the way I played for so many years, but that comes with time," Djokovic said.
"I understand that it's quite hard to play match after match on a very high level if I don't have too many matches behind me, if I had an injury, if I had an absence from the Tour for six months. All these things we have to take in consideration.
"Obviously, patience is required, trust in the process, believing in myself, in my game, people around me. I really believe that if I continue doing what I'm doing so far, believing in myself, I know eventually I'm going to get there. I'm going to get there."
Djokovic acknowledged Thiem outperformed him at the crucial moments and he will decide on Friday whether to compete in Barcelona or Budapest next week.
"There was a lot of positives in this tournament. Three matches played, last two matches have been almost two and a half hours and today three sets against one of the best players in the world, especially on clay," he said.
"It was quite close. I felt like in the beginning of the second set and third set I had my chances and I didn't use them and after that he was a better player.
"But, of course, I wish that I could have played certain points and shots a bit different, but at the same time I have to understand that realistically I'm still not at that level. I'm getting to [it], I'm feeling like it's been getting better every day.
"I've had three matches here, I didn't expect anything. I played without pain in the elbow which is important.
"I haven't played too many matches – six, seven, eight in total since July – so I look forward to build more confidence on the court, to get my game on the desired level.
"I thought the intensity was quite high [on Thursday]. It was pretty close until the last game, the last point, we were quite toe-to-toe but he was just the better player in the important moments."
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