Abu Dhabi - Former world No 1 Novak Djokovic admitted on Tuesday his six-month absence from tennis has taught him never to take his career for granted, describing his injury agony as a "roller-coaster ride".
The 30-year-old Serb has not played since Wimbledon in July when a long-standing elbow injury forced him to shut down his 2017 season.
As a consequence, the 12-time major winner saw his world ranking slip to 12, his lowest place in 10 years.
"It's been a real roller-coaster ride for me for a year and a half with this issue. I've never had surgery in my life, I've never had any major injuries that kept me away from the tour for such a long time," Djokovic told Sport360 in Abu Dhabi.
"I never missed a Grand Slam in my career. It was a big decision, a big call to make. I couldn't play anymore, there was no choice. It was like, that's it, you can't lift your arm."
Djokovic will return to the court in Abu Dhabi at the pre-season Mubadala World Championship which runs from December 28-30.
He is then due to kick-off his competitive season as top seed at the Qatar Open next week before launching a bid for a seventh Australian Open crown.
Having added mercurial former tour player Radek Stepanek to a coaching team spearheaded by Andre Agassi, Djokovic only started hitting again in Monaco four weeks ago.
"I've learned a lesson because I really want to avoid getting to that stage of an injury ever in my career after this," Djokovic added.
"And it was a great lesson to learn to be honest. It was not easy for me to be absent for so long.
"I can't wait to get back on the competition level but it was a great experience for me to have. And it was a somewhat necessary experience because I got maybe too comfortable with not having major injuries."