To­gether again

12-time Grand Slam champ No­vak Djokovic back with for­mer coach Va­jda

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

MONTE CARLO — No­vak Djokovic said on Mon­day it feels like a “fresh start” to be re­united with long-time for­mer coach Mar­ian Va­jda at the Monte Carlo Mas­ters.

Djokovic, a 12-time Grand Slam cham­pion, split from An­dre Agassi and Radek Stepanek ear­lier this month and has been train­ing with Va­jda for the past 10 days in Monaco.

“It’s a fresh start I think for both of us. I missed him. I have a feel­ing that he missed me or ten­nis or both,” Djokovic said af­ter a con­fi­dent 6-0, 6-1 thrash­ing of Du­san La­jovic in Mon­day’s first round.

“Mar­ian knows me bet­ter than any ten­nis coach I’ve worked with.

“He’s a friend. He’s some­one I can share a lot of things with, whether it’s pro­fes­sional or pri­vate life. He’s al­ways there for me.”

Djokovic con­firmed he is not yet work­ing with Va­jda on a full-time ba­sis, af­ter the two parted ways fol­low­ing last year’s tour­na­ment in Monte Carlo.

The 30-year-old also played down re­ports of a rift with Agassi, thank­ing the Amer­i­can for “help­ing his ca­reer” over an 11-month pe­riod.

“This doesn’t af­fect our per­sonal re­la­tion­ships that we es­tab­lished over the years with both Radek and An­dre,” he said.

“We just de­cided that it’s bet­ter to part ways be­cause, you know, both sides felt that was best for me and for them.”

Mon­day’s win was his first since the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary, af­ter be­ing dumped out in In­dian Wells and Mi­ami by Taro Daniel and Benoit Paire, re­spec­tively.

The joy was less be­cause of the first-round vic­tory — he is a two-time cham­pion here — and more about his nag­ging right el­bow in­jury not resur­fac­ing.

“I thought it was good con­sid­er­ing the amount of matches I’ve played. I mean, I’ve played prob­a­bly six, seven matches since Wim­ble­don last year,” said Djokovic, who next faces Borna Coric of Croa­tia. “So af­ter two years, fi­nally I can play with­out pain.”

He came to the tour­na­ment with a 3-3 match record this year, los­ing his last three since the Aus­tralian Open.

Now, Djokovic has gone full cir­cle and is work­ing with Va­jda again, al­beit in an in­for­mal coach­ing ca­pac­ity since they do not have a long-term agree­ment.

Djokovic sees him as part coach, part con­fi­dante.

“He’s more like a brother, a fa­ther ... some­one I can share a lot of things with, whether it’s pro­fes­sional or in my pri­vate life,” Djokovic said.

“He’s al­ways there for me, knows me in­side out. He knows what I need to do in or­der to get to the high­est pos­si­ble level of play.”

Djokovic took the sec­ond half of last year off and then had a med­i­cal pro­ce­dure in Fe­bru­ary.

He then lost his open­ing matches in March at In­dian Wells — to a qual­i­fier ranked out­side the top 100 — and Mi­ami.

“I might have rushed my de­ci­sion to play a lit­tle bit,” Djokovic said. “Play­ing well be­low the de­sired level, it wasn’t easy for me to cope.”

He touched upon his split with Agassi and Stepanek, in­sist­ing there was no ac­ri­mony.

“I didn’t know in which di­rec­tion I wanted to go af­ter In­dian Wells and Mi­ami. I was ques­tion­ing which way I want to move ahead,” he said.

“Noth­ing per­sonal, no bad feel­ings. We just split in a very nor­mal way. We’re go­ing to be see­ing each other and still keep on be­ing friends.”

The Serb con­firmed he is now play­ing pain-free.

“Af­ter two years, fi­nally I can play with­out pain,” added Djokovic. “In­dian Wells, Mi­ami ... es­pe­cially In­dian Wells, was not like that.

“I still ob­vi­ously wasn’t ready game-wise, phys­i­cally. So In­dian Wells and Mi­ami were re­ally kind of a strug­gle on the court for me men­tally.

“I knew that I can play much bet­ter than that, but I just couldn’t.”

AFP

No­vak Djokovic of Ser­bia ac­knowl­edges the crowd as he cel­e­brates de­feat­ing com­pa­triot Du­san La­jovic in the first round at the Monte Carlo Mas­ters in Monaco on Mon­day.

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