By Andrew Dampf
Novak Djokovic says his right ankle is not bothering him anymore.
The top-ranked player twisted his ankle while representing Serbia in the Davis Cup in April then appeared to hurt it again in a second-round loss to Grigor Dimitrov at the Madrid Open.
"I feel better. The ankle is not bothering me anymore, which is great news," Djokovic said at the Italian Open.
"I'm already slowly starting to release the protection from the ankle because I feel more and more stable on it. There's no pain, which is great."
Djokovic won the Italian Open in 2008 and 2011 and he's looking forward to a warm reception at the Foro Italico after the Madrid crowd turned against him in the loss to Dimitrov.
"I love Italy. I also speak Italian so I feel like a local," Djokovic said.
Against Dimitrov, Djokovic slipped on the baseline during the middle of the match and winced in pain. He then called for a trainer and took a lengthy break to get treatment. The wait for the match to resume annoyed the crowd, who turned against Djokovic and began chanting Dimitrov's name.
Djokovic was surprised by the crowd's reaction.
"I won Madrid in 2011 and had nice support. I have a lot of friends in Spain. My brothers live in Spain. So I never had a problem with Spain or Spanish people. In contrary, I always enjoyed my visits there," he said.
"This time it happened what happened and I forgot about it already.
"I respect the choices of a crowd and who they support and I understand it's not going to always be me," Djokovic added. "That's normal. But what happened there is something unusual for me. I didn't experience that before, to be treated that way for no reason in my opinion. I move on and here I already feel more comfortable."
Djokovic opened his clay-court season by winning the Monte Carlo Masters, winning the final in straight sets over Rafael Nadal to end the Spaniard's run of eight consecutive titles in the principality.
"Monte Carlo was the best possible clay-court season start. Madrid was different but still, as a professional you have to accept the losses and defeats. They are as important as the victories, actually. You learn something new from them," Djokovic said.
"It's not the first time I'm facing this type of situation in my career. Hopefully this tournament can be the lucky one for me then I'll focus my attention to Paris."
Having won the Australian Open in January, Djokovic will chase the year's second Grand Slam title at the French Open, which starts in two weeks.
In Rome, a major clay-court warm-up for Roland Garros, Djokovic will open against either 30th-ranked Martin Klizan of Slovakia or a qualifier. In an eventual second match, he could face Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss player who lost to Nadal in the Madrid final.