Two years after her death Novak Djokovic still attributes his success to Jelena Gencic - UBITENNIS
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Two years after her death Novak Djokovic still attributes his success to Jelena Gencic




Novak Djokovic pictured with his first coach Jelena Gencic (image via

Closing out the season as world No.1 with the prospect of claiming his 11th title of 2015 at the ATP Finals next week, Novak Djokovic has spoken about the woman who started it all for him.


Jelena Gencic was a former handball and tennis player who claimed a bronze medal at the 1957 World Handball Championships. After her sporting career, Gencic embarked on a successful career as a tennis coach, mentoring the biggest stars in Yugoslavia. These included Monica Seles, Goran Ivanisevic, Iva Majoli and Djokovic.

In 1993 Gencic was running a summer camp in Kopaonik, Serbia where she spotted a young Djokovic gazing at the camp. She approached Djokovic and invited him to join the camp, starting what turned out to be one of the most impressive tennis careers in the modern era of the game. Gencic immediately spotted Djokovic’s talent, telling his parents after his first three days of playing tennis that they have ‘a golden child’. The bond formed between the two continued until Gencic’s death in 2013. Shortly after her death, the world No.1 pledged to continue her legacy.

“Jelena was my first coach, like my second mother,” Djokovic said.
“We were very close throughout my whole life and she taught me a lot of things that are part of me, part of my character today. Hopefully I will be able to continue with her legacy, because she left so much knowledge to me, to the people that were close to her”.

Two years since the passing of his first coach, Djokovic still attributes his strong mental strength, which has been praised throughout 2015, to what he what taught be Gencic. During a recent interview with Sports Magazine, the world No.1 cites his rigorous routine of a gluten-free diet as well as an Eastern philosophical approach to the game to what he learnt from his first coach.

“She was also very analytical. Every exercise or drill that we did on the court had its purpose. She taught me to always be prepared for practice, to warm up properly, to recover and stretch. She had this holistic approach, so it’s a mindset I’ve also had since I was seven years old.” The world No.1 said.

Djokovic also talked about his current coach Boris Becker, who he has worked with since 2013. The success of working with Becker has paid off this year with the Serbian currently on a 2015 win-loss of 73-5. Despite being on his own on the court when he plays in tournaments, the Serbian empathized to Sports Magazine that he still works in  a team sport environment.

“We still keep this strong link between ourselves because, at the end of the day, it’s a team sport as well. When I’m alone on the court, of course I have to do the job myself. But I have this small corner where my team is sitting. Sometimes it’s sufficient for me just to look at them and make eye contact with Boris [Becker] or Marian [Vajda, another coach] – that’s enough for me to know that I’m not alone.”

Djokovic will be bidding to win the ATP Finals for the fourth consecutive year. If he is successful, he will become the first player in history to win the title four times in a row.

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Former French Open Finalist Lied To Get Doping Ban Reduced

Mariano Puerta says he told a false story to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but two former members of his team have disputed this claim.




The man who Rafael Nadal played in his first ever Grand Slam final back in 2005 has admitted for the first time he lied to officials after failing a doping test for the second time.


Mariano Puerta faced the possibility of getting banned from the sport for up to eight years just weeks after playing in the Roland Garros title match. He had tested positive for the cardiac stimulant etilefrine, which at the time he said he accidentally consumed after drinking his wife’s glass of water which contained menstrual medication. Initially handed the eight-year ban he successfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration to the sport using the glass of water story to get it slashed to two years. Something he now astonishingly claims was a false story.

The explanation we used as a strategy was a lie. But I didn’t gain any sporting advantage, I don’t want to be seen as a cheat any more,” Puerta told the La Nacion newspaper on Monday.

Former top 10 player Puerta maintains that he never intentionally meant to take a banned substance to get a competitive advantage over his rivals. The 41-year-old says his positive test was because he was taking a nutritional supplement which contained “caffeine and ginseng.” Something he said was given to him by his former fitness trainer Dario Lecman. According to Puerta, the supplement contained traces of the banned substance etilefrine.

“We couldn’t do anything because the pills were bought, I don’t know how to put this … not in a legal way,” said Puerta.
“My lawyers didn’t think it was a good idea to say what happened.”

At his high Puerta was ranked ninth in the world back in 2005 and made $1.7 million in prize money. During his controversy-stricken career, he won three ATP titles on the clay. The Argentine was also banned from the Tour for nine months in 2003 after testing positive for Clenbuterol.

The Argentine’s latest revelation about his lie to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) have been dismissed by two former members of his team. Lecman says he never gave any pills to Puerta.

“I’ve got nothing to do with this. I didn’t give him anything. It’s a lie,” he said.

Former coach Andres Schneiter also voiced over Puerta’s new version of the story. According to the ATP, Schneiter is currently working alongside Karen Khachanov and Christian Garin on the Tour.

“I asked him what had happened and he told me he didn’t know. I thought he was lying. I sensed that reply wasn’t sincere, I think he took something without knowing and it was negligence,” he said.

Puerta claims the glass of water story was created by lawyer Eduardo Moliné O’Connor, who was a former executive of the Argentine Tennis Federation. O’Connor died in 2014.

“To today’s tennis players I would say don’t do anything that puts you in a position like mine. How can you be safe?” he said. “Being extremely responsible, do not delegate, do not trust anybody. The price that you might pay for making a mistake is very high. It doesn’t make sense. I was irresponsible.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Love, Not Money, Drives The Palermo Open As Chief Welcomes Idea Of Second Event In 2020

Tournament director Oliviero Palma tells UbiTennis Palermo is being staged ‘as an act love for tennis’ despite the tournament facing losses in the region of 50,000 euros.




Five months since the last professional tennis tournament took place, the task of restarting the WTA Tour relies on a tournament taking place on the Italian island of Sicily.


The Palermo Open officially marks the return of WTA tennis following its lengthy suspension due to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. All eyes will be placed upon the event which has already experienced its fair share of obstacles. Wimbledon champion Simona Halep withdrew due to ‘travelling anxiety’ despite being assured that she will be exempt from quarantine rules. On top of that, a player in the qualifying draw pulled out after testing positive for the Coronavirus over the weekend. These scenarios are the ones set to become the new normal for the rest of the year at least.

Overseeing events taking place this week is long-time tournament director Oliviero Palma, who admits that ‘everything is different’ in 2020. Due to the current climate, the number of people allowed to enter the 1500-capacity centre court has been slashed to 350 and the prize money pot has been cut by $27,500. Nevertheless, the 31st edition of the tournament boasts a strong field with every seed being in the world’s top 30. Croatia’s Petra Martic is the highest ranked at 15th.  

“The first tournament after the suspension is more concerned with the safety aspect firstly. Sport comes after,” Palma told “Even though we had little time, we are being able to control and foresee all kinds of situations.’
“The world has been waiting for the first tournament post- Covid with the public and to understand whether we can go back to normal, although with all due precautions.’
“Previous tasks do not count now, this is not the 31st Palermo Ladies Open, this is the first tournament after lockdown. Everything is different.”

Even with balls being hit on the courts at the Country Time Club, which is the venue of the Palermo Open, it is evident that there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. Within the past two weeks all events in China have been scrapped, Japan has lost its premier women’s event and the Madrid Open is on the brink of being cancelled. Meanwhile, in Italy the country’s biggest tournament in Rome scheduled for September has been warned not to welcome fans to the event.

Given the circumstances, the fact Palermo is happening at all is an achievement in itself. Palma says his event has been able to go ahead due to a lower number of cases of COVID-19 and what he describes as ‘faith’ from the local government.

The Sicilian government had and has faith in the 31st Palermo Ladies Open and opened the Centre Court to a limited number of spectators, exactly to test this opportunity. I’m so concentrated on my tournament I haven’t had the possibility to follow Internazionali d’italia,” he said.

Thousands of euros will be lost

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Palma doesn’t sugarcoat the fact his event isn’t taking place without a significant economic hit. In a recent interview with Reuters he said the event will ‘bear losses’ in order for the Tour to start again. But how significant will these losses be?

“This is an act of love for tennis. We didn’t look at the balance sheet, this year,” he explains to UbiTennis.
“Our marketing experts explained to us that we will have to evaluate the revenues over this and the next year. Losses, however, are estimated to be around 50,000 euros.”

Instead of dwelling on the financial turmoil that many other tennis tournaments are also facing, Palma and his team hope to lead the way when it comes to their COVID-19 testing. Players undergo two types of tests called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and Serological.

“Thanks to the strictness of protocols, we successfully intercepted a positive case,” Palma said in reference to Saturday’s announcement.
“The protocol dictates that players arrive in Palermo having already undergone (about 4 days before) a PCR test. As soon as they arrive, they do a serologic and a PCR test. They then go to their hotel room, which they can’t leave until we have the test result, normally within12 hours. As she receives the negative result, she leaves isolation, receives the badge and can start training.”

The player who reportedly tested positive was Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova who did  not show any symptoms at the time. Tomova was the only player to withdraw from qualifying due to ‘illness’ but there has been no official confirmation.

Tomova highlights the complexities faced by players and tournaments with guidelines being constantly updated. For example, in an interview by The Hindustan Times on July 29th quoted Palma saying that players could ‘have a tour of the city if they wish to, since the virus is barely circulating.’ However, since the interview his view on this matter has somewhat changed.

“WTA protocols do not encourage tourism or city tours; on the contrary, they are highly discouraged,” Palma points out.

Whatever happens this week, Palermo will forever remain the event which kick-started the world of tennis during the troublesome COVID-19 pandemic. As other tournaments start to disappear, the WTA and ATP have a lot of space to fill during the final quarter of this season. So what about having a second Palermo Open or an equivalent in the region later this year?

 “Why not! We would only need to see the conditions,” Palma concluded.

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Pasta And Preparation: Roger Federer Reveals His Secret For A Balanced Diet

The Swiss tennis star speaks with his sponsor Barilla about how he managed to keep fit during the COVID-19 lockdown.




20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer says he ‘cannot wait’ to return back to the court after staring in a special surprise video recently released by Barilla.


The former world No.1 travelled to Finale Ligura in Italy to meet 13-year-old Vittoria and 11-year-old Carola. Who starred in a viral video earlier this year of them both playing tennis on the rooftops during the lockdown. The video started as an interview with the two girls before the Swiss maestro showed up and surprised them both.

During filming for the advert, Federer spoke with long-time sponsor Barilla about a variety of topics besides the video. The 38-year-old hasn’t played a competitive match since his semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January. Since then, he has had to undergo two surgeries on his right knee. The second procedure was required after he failed to achieve the desired results from his first.

“To be honest, it wasn’t easy, and I haven’t played much tennis lately,” Federer commented about how he tried to keep fit during the lockdown.
I am recovering from a knee surgery that I’ve had this year, so I was focused on the recovery and on keeping social distancing and to stick to the rules.’
“I was in Switzerland with my family and friends, trying to work as hard as I was allowed to for my knee. But all is progressing well, and I cannot wait to be back on the tennis court soon.”

With 103 titles under his belt, Federer is the second most decorated player in ATP history. The first is Jimmy Connors, who won 109 titles during his career. He also holds the record for most weeks spent as world No.1 on the men’s tour at 310 weeks.

Now one of the oldest players in the sport, Federer says the key for an athlete to have a balanced diet is moderation. As for his food of choice, he usually consumes pasta before matches. Federer signed an endorsement deal with The Barilla Group back in 2017 worth millions. Barilla is the world’s largest pasta producer.

“The secret to a healthy and balanced diet stays all in moderation. Whatever you do, you have to do it with moderation, but you also need to enjoy food,” he said.
“Pasta has always worked very well for me before matches. I’ve eaten pasta almost before every game, and I’ve played almost 1500 matches now, and I still love it like the first day. It is important to stay healthy.”

As for his home life, when it comes to meals Federer takes a more traditional approach learned from him and his wife’s Mirka parents. Making sure his family gathers around the dinner table ‘several times a week.’ Something that is easier said than done for a tennis player who regularly travels around the world.

“We really take a big effort and make sure we get all together at the table maybe once or twice a day, definitely several times a week,” Federer explains. “I think it’s important to talk about our day, about what has happened, and not to just sit down, eat quickly and run away. For me it is part of a nice unwinding of the day or even a great way to see each other and catch up, because our lives are all very busy.”

Federer is currently ranked fourth in the ATP rankings.

Photos of Federer’s time in Italy

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