TENNIS Internazionali BNL d’Italia – N. Djokovic d. R. Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. An interview with Novak Djokovic.
Q:You have beaten Rafa 4 times in a row and you’re now ready to steal his crown in Paris…
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s been a great week, considering how I was few weeks ago with the injure at my wrist and didn’t know how the wrist is going to react this week. Luckily for me I played with no pain, increasing the level of my tennis as the week went on. I had some tough matches: 4 out of 5 were three setter and had to come back from one set down yesterday with Raonic and today giving me a lot of confidence. Winning a final of a great tournament with Rafa on clay is definitely is a confidence booster and an ultimate challenge. I am very happy with my game and I hope I can carry it to the Roland Garros. Today I tried to be aggressive from the start of the match, it didn’t work a lot and I made a lot of unforced errors but I didn’t change the game plan and the I found the hitting range, the right rhythm on the court and I felt much more comfortable on the court. Going into the match today I was hoping that I could win, of course, I come into every match like that. But I do not underestimate any opponent and especially Rafa who is the best player ever in the history on this surface, we all know his record. I didn’t feel I had the match in my hands, but I do have the belief in myself and my abilities that in the end….mental strength, experience would have helped me to stay calm and play the right shots at the right times.
Q:I saw you playing in a lot of countries but I never see a crowd like this in your favour.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It’s amazing, I want to thank them all, they played a great part in this win. It’s something that I don’t take for granted and I very appreciate, I try to give them back and show as much love as I can. Maybe helps that I speak a little bit of Italian, but I do really feel like home here and very close to these people and I am glad I was able to win the title in front of them.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: This match has gone over 2 hours: there were a lot rallies, long point, and this is part of our rivalry, especially on the slow surfaces where you get to play more rallies than on the fast ones. He’s physically the fittest player on tour but I know that I am pretty fit too and I know that with my team I have been doing a great job in the last two years getting myself in the right shape and this gives me the right confidence once I am on court. I know I can rally with him but I know that the only to beat him is to be aggressive.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I have to admit that I copied it from Gustavo Kuerten who did it in Paris: it’s the most spectacular celebration from many tennis players I have seen in my life. I felt that was something that come from inside me and I wanted to share with the crowd. And they liked it.
Q:As a soon father, how it was your reaction when the two children started to cry when you lost your serve? Do you remember?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was not upset with the children, I was more upset with the people who were behind talking to them, applauding…. But look, it happens sometime with the crowd, it’s part of the sport.
Q:Regarding what is happening in your country, do you feel you were playing not just for yourself but for something bigger?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Absolutely. I have been following during the last 2 or 3 days what’s going on with this catastrophic flood. It’s something that has taken away a lot of hope and homes and not being present makes me sad because I cannot physically contribute because if I was there I would, definitely. As soon as the flood passes by we’ll need help from the world because the process of recovery in our country can last for months or year and it depends on how much help will we get. This is the biggest disaster in the history of our country and people internationally didn’t know much about it and that’s why I am trying to spread the awareness with yesterday’s event and talking about it a little bit more than usual. I see that many athletes in Serbia are not competing and choose to help they fellow Serbian instead, and this win and this trophy is dedicated to them.
REPORT: Grigor Dimitrov Appoints New Coach
The former ATP Finals champion appears to have found a new mentor.
Former top 10 player Grigor Dimitrov has found a replacement following the departure of Radek Stepanek, according to one Bulgarian news source.
TennisKafe.com has reported that the world No.20 is now working alongside Christian Groh. A German-born coach who has worked with a number of top players on the men’s tour. Including Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz. It is his work with Haas that Groh is best known for. During their 24 months together, he guided him from outside the top 200 to 11th in the ATP rankings.
The development comes a month after the 28-year-old stated that he was in no hurry to find a new mentor on the tour. Back in May he ended his collaboration with Dani Vallverdu after almost three years working together. He made the decision shortly before he exited the world’s top 50 for the first time since 2012.
“I’m not in a panic right now to find a coach. I always think that when I don’t have someone beside me, it’s hard to train. However, in the past months, I have done things myself that I have not done.” Dimitrov told reporters in November.
“You need to have freedom, to find yourself, to become closer to yourself.” He added.
Despite Stepanek stepping away, Dimitrov is still in contact with eight-time grand slam champion Agassi. Agassi is not a coach to the Bulgarian, but has agreed to a sort of consultation role where the two talk with each other regularly.
Dimitrov has experienced a roller coaster run on the tour this season with a win-loss record of 22-21. At one stage he failed to win back-to-back matches at six consecutive tournaments over the summer. However, his form surged during the last quarter of 2019 where he reached the semi-finals at both the US Open and Paris Masters.
Neither Dimitrov or Groh has yet confirmed their new partnership on the tour. Groh has recently been working as a consultant for the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
Heading into the new season, the first test for the duo will be at the ATP Cup in Australia. As well as playing, Dimitrov is the captain of the Bulgarian team.
Groh’s coaching CV
- 2011: Michael Berrer
- 2012-2013: Tommy Haas
- 2014: Bradley Klahn and Taylor Fritz
- 2015: Tommy Haas and Taylor Fritz
- ATP/WTA Players and United States Tennis Federation Player Development since 2015
Since the publication of this article, Ubitennis has received some additional details on Dimitrov’s work with Groh. The editor of TennisKafe.com, Borislav Orlinov, confirmed it was Dimitrov’s manager (Georgi Stoimenov) who revelled the two will be working together. They are currently training in Monte Carlo, but will head to Australia before the New Year.
Rival Backs Dominic Thiem To Win Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award
Only two players have won the award since 2004.
For the past 15 years only two players have managed to get their hands on the prestigious Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, but one player thinks there could be a brand new winner this year.
Diego Schwartzman has lent his support behind world No.4 Dominic Thiem. The award recognizes those who have conducted the highest level of professionalism and integrity on the ATP Tour throughout the season. Established in 1977, Roger Federer has won the honour in 13 out of the past 15 years. The only other player to triumph during that period was Rafael Nadal, who won it in 2010 and 2018.
“I think Thiem can win it, he showed throughout the year a competitiveness and a respect with everyone that was spectacular,” Schwartzman told ole.com. “On top of that he is having great years of his career and this season was even better for the achievements he had.’
“He has a good chance of winning it.” He added.
Schwartzman, who reached the quarter-finals of the US Open earlier this year, has also been shortlisted for the award. Along with regular nominees Federer and Nadal. Only once has an Argentinian player won the title, which was José Luis Clerc back in 1981. At that time it was known as the ATP Sportsmanship award before getting renamed in 1996.
“I learned first (of getting nominated) through social networks rather than the official designation that the ATP sends you by mail.” The 27-year-old revealed.
“It is more spectacular than anything for the players I have next to me. It is a very important prize that recognizes a little what you do off the court, not only hitting the ball.”
Whilst he is dreaming of winning the honour himself, Schwartzman is just happy that he has been nominated.
“If I won this award, it would be spectacular. Now I am on that payroll that is very good and represents the values that I try to maintain on a day-to-day basis and that (my coaching teams over the years) have taught me. It is very nice to be recognized for that. “ He concluded.
The four nominees for the Stefan Edberg Award was shortlisted by the ATP. However, it will be the players who will decide the winner. The result will be revealed later this month.
Multiple winners of the Stefan Edberg/ATP Sportsmanship award
Roger Federer – 13
Stefan Edberg – 5
Pat Rafter – 4
Alex Corretja – 2
Todd Martin – 2
Paradorn Srichaphan – 2
Rafael Nadal – 2
Kei Nishikori In Doubt For The Australian Open
Asia’s highest ranked male tennis player is contemplating when he should return to the tour following surgery.
World No.13 Kei Nishikori is refusing to rule out the prospect of skipping the first grand slam event of 2020 as he continues his recovery from surgery.
Nishikori hasn’t played a match on the tour since his third round loss at the US Open back in September. A month later he underwent a procedure on his right elbow in a move that brought his season to an early end. Currently undergoing rehabilitation, it is unclear as to when the Japanese player believes he will return to the ATP Tour.
“The prospect of a return from surgery on right elbow in January. Maybe February. In the second half of next year I want to be able to play well.” Nikkan Sports quoted Nishikori as saying.
“I don’t want to overdo it,” he added.
The Australian Open will get underway on January 20th in Melbourne. Should he miss the grand slam, it will be the second time he has done so in the last three years. Nishikori also withdrew from the 2018 edition due to a wrist injury. In January he reached the quarter-finals and therefore has 360 points to defend next year.
During his time away from the court, the 29-year-old has been kept busy making changes to his team. Recently it was confirmed that he has started working alongside Max Mirnyi, who is a former world No.1 doubles player. Mirnyi, who has won 10 grand slam titles in men’s and mixed doubles, will be working full-time with Nishikori alongside existing coach Michael Chang.
“I’m getting closer to retirement. I want to be cured and come back to play good tennis in the second half of next year.” Nishikori stated.
Despite the injury setback, Nishikori has enjoyed success in 2019. Reaching the quarter-finals in three out of the four grand slam tournaments. The first time he has ever done that in his career. He also claimed his 12th ATP title at the Brisbane International. Overall, he won 29 out of 43 matches played.
Nishikori will turn 30 on December 29th.
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