Monte Carlo: Novak Djokovic said it was "great" to deal with the emotions of a "real battle" again, after saving 10 match points to beat Borna Coric at the Monte Carlo Masters, while Rafael Nadal made a "positive" return to the ATP Tour by thrashing Aljaz Bedene.
Djokovic, playing only his fourth tournament since Wimbledon last July after struggling with a right elbow injury, overcame some late nerves to win 7-6 (7/2), 7-5 in the second-round clash.
"It was a real battle. I mean, I could have won the match earlier definitely, but it was great to deal with these kinds of emotions again," said the 12-time Grand Slam champion.
Djokovic is working with long-time former coach Marian Vajda for the first time in almost a year after splitting from Andre Agassi, and the 30-year-old has looked rejuvenated in Monaco after early exits in Indian Wells and Miami.
The Serbian will next face Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem with a possible quarter-final against defending champion Nadal, who plays Karen Khachanov in the last 16 on Thursday, up for grabs. But Djokovic insisted he wasn't looking past the clash with Thiem, a French Open semi-finalist in each of the last two years.
"It's disrespectful towards Dominic and Dominic's tennis... To think about and talk about potentially a match-up with Nadal," Djokovic added. "Last year in Roland Garros he beat me in straight sets. He's definitely (a) top-three player in the world on clay."
Djokovic came through a tight first set in a tie-break and moved a break clear in the second, before late drama as he missed nine chances to close out the match.
The ninth seed rediscovered his composure, though, to finally complete the job at the 10th time of asking as the 39th-ranked Coric sent a backhand flying long.
Two-time Monte Carlo winner Djokovic said that he has gained power since changing to a lighter racquet to try and take pressure off his troublesome elbow. "It feels like I gained more power, especially on the serve. I gained more angle," he said.
"The racquet is the most important tool that we have, but it's not more important than our body and our mind, our movements. So it is a tool that helps, but it doesn't play for you."