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.
Roger Federer Survives Millman Scare To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
Roger Federer reached the Australian Open fourth round for the 18th time in his career after battling past John Millman.
Roger Federer survived a massive scare to edge out John Millman 4-6 7-6(3) 6-4 4-6 7-6(8) to reach the Australian Open fourth round.
The Swiss maestro won the last five points of the last set tiebreak to survive a scare from a spirited John Millman to reach the second week at the Australian Open for the 18th time.
As a result of the four hour win, Federer also seals his 100th Australian Open victory in what was a dramatic battle to end a crazy day.
Marton Fucsovics awaits Federer next after the Hungarian’s win over Tommy Paul.
The last time Roger Federer played his Australian opponent in a grand slam, he was beaten on a hot evening in New York and there were early signs that lightning was about to strike.
Crisp, clean hitting saw Millman trouble the 20-time grand slam champion early as he moved well around the court as well as serving big.
A 4-1 lead was consumed by the Aussie as the warning signs started to ring for Federer. Meanwhile the 3rd seed struggled to find consistency with the forehand as he took a while to tactically figure out Miilman.
Although Federer managed to take advantage of his opponent’s nerves to get the break back, a loose and uncharacteristic game from Federer sealed the opening set for Millman 6-4.
There was more clutch serving and big-hitting in the second set as the world number 47 continued to play some solid tennis.
However the 38 year-old Swiss produced a much better second set as he came to the net to finish points off quicker and took the match to Millman.
The only break point of the set saw the Australian hold off Federer as the second set tiebreak loomed. Champions turn up when they need to and despite Millman’s great start, the Swiss took control and dominated the tiebreak with some sensational shots.
It was one set all and six-time champion was feeling energetic and full of life again. This energy translated into the third set as Federer used his experience to increase the pressure and intensity.
Even though it wasn’t the best day at the office for him, Federer was still able to produce his best tennis when it mattered.
However Millman, incredibly, was able to match it at times and produced a few sensational points to hold from break point down to level at 4-4.
Eventually the Australian’s resolve was broken and a rare unforced error sealed a two sets to one lead for the 2018 champion who was still furious at himself.
Even though Federer had taken control, he wasn’t playing his best tennis as his forehand was becoming a liability with 16 unforced errors occurring in the fourth set.
Meanwhile Millman seemed energised as he was moving around the court and defending the ball like his life depended on it.
A break in the seventh game was enough as Millman ensured that late night drama would happen on a Friday night in Melbourne as he sealed the fourth set.
The momentum was with the Australian as he broke in the third game with some stunning returning before Federer immediately broke back in what was a tense contest.
Both men was struggling to find the consistency needed to dominate the final set as Federer struggled to break his opponent down.
Two good opportunities to seal the crucial break came and went for Millman as some clutch serving ensured Federer continued to survive in this contest.
As the match continued, Federer’s forehand unforced errors continued to mount and cost him in big moments under pressure.
Nobody could find the breakthrough needed, so a 10 point tiebreak would be played out to decide the winner. In the end it was Millman who played the more controlled and dominating tennis to secure a historic win and a place in the fourth round.
After the match, Federer praised Millman’s efforts, “Where to start … John played a great match, he’s a great fighter, a great guy and it came down to the wire. Maybe a bit of luck. I had to stay so focused to make the right decisions. What a match, John deserves over half of this one,” Federer said in his on-court interview.
In the end, experience paid dividends for Federer as he came back from 8-4 down in the tiebreak to survive a huge test and win the last five points of the tiebreak to book his place in the second week of the Australian Open.
Next up for Federer is Marton Fucsovics on Sunday.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Exits Australian Open Frustrated, But Not Heartbroken
The world No.6 reacts to his earlier than expected exit from Melbourne Park.
Next Gen star Stefanos Tsitsipas has insisted that there was nothing he could have done to his game after crashing out of the Australian Open to 32nd seed Milos Raonic.
The 2019 semi-finalist in Melbourne struggled to tame the serve of the fast-serving Canadian, who blasted his way to a surprise 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (2), victory. Throughout the encounter Tsitsipas was unable to get a single break point opportunity as a total of 19 aces was blasted past him. The Greek also produced less than half the amount of winners as Raonic with his tally being 23 against 55.
“It’s quite difficult.” Tsitsipas said about playing the world No.35. “He’s playing forehands from all over the court, and you don’t really know where you should stand exactly because he’s just so fast and just turning around, hitting those forehands.’
“His serve is great, one of the best in the game.”
“Myself, I felt a bit stupid returning his serves. I felt like I was slow. My anticipation was not there.” He added.
Admitting that he was essentially overpowered on the Margaret Court Arena, Tsitsipas described his opponents serve as ‘getting punched in the face with one shot.’ According to data from Infosys, Raonic’s first serve was 14 km/h quicker (223 to 209) than that of the world No.6. Furthermore, his second serve was 25km/h quicker (178 to 153).
Tipped as one of the players who could potentially claim their first grand slam title in 2020, Tsitsipas’ record in the majors has been lacklustre over the past 12 months. After his Melbourne breakout a year ago, he has only reached the fourth round at one out of four tournaments. Losing his opening matches at both Wimbledon and the US Open.
Trying to find an explanation for his latest loss, the Greek dismissed speculation that he is suffering from any physical issue at present. He started his season at the ATP Cup, where he lost two out of his three matches against Denis Shapovalov and Nick Kyrgios.
“I’m feeling okay. I think also with my experience last year, I had burnout twice during the year, and I found kind of a balance how to manage that and sustain and play at the same level that I have been playing. So I think it all comes with experience.” He explained.
“My body is pretty good. I don’t have anything bothering me.”
Despite the high amount of expectation placed on his shoulders, the 21-year-old insisted that the defeat hurts less than it did a year ago.
“I have learned to deal with it. Last year I wasn’t able to deal with it. I was heartbroken after my semifinal loss.” He said.
“This year is different. I’ll just keep going. I don’t know. We’ll win it next year. That’s fine (smiling).”
Tsitsipas is the third top 10 seed to exit the men’s draw in Melbourne.
In the fourth round of the tournament Raonic will play former US Open champion Marin Cilic.
Coco Gauff, 15, Stuns Two-Time Grand Slam Champion Osaka At Australian Open
The rising star has caused another huge shock in women’s tennis.
Teenage sensation Coco Gauff has become the youngest player to defeat a top five opponent since 1991 after knocking reigning champion Naomi Osaka out of the Australian Open.
Gauff, who is making her debut in Melbourne, showed little signs of nerves throughout her milestone 6-3, 6-4, win. The most high-profile of her career to date. Despite her lack of experience, it was Osaka who was the more erratic of the two. The Japanese player leaked a total of 30 unforced errors, which amounted to 50% of the points Gauff won in the match. The teenager also won 76% of her first service points and 64% of second.
“Two years ago I lost the first round of the (Australian Open) juniors and now I’m here. This is crazy.” Gauff commented on her Australian Open run.
“I was just telling myself one point at a time and to keep fighting because you never know what happens on the court.”
Compared to their clash at the US Open last year, there was a different feel to this match. Underdog Gauff looked more determined and less intimidated on the court by the two-time grand slam champion. A sign of her rapid growth on the tour at such a young age. With both players matching each early on in the opener, Gauff secured her first breakthrough eight games in. Two consecutive Osaka backhand errors enabled the American to break for a 5-3 lead. Prompting huge shout of ‘come on’ from the teenager. Rapidly gaining momentum, she clinched then 6-3 lead with the help of a love service game.
Trading breaks at the start of the second frame, Gauff to continued to capitalize on the mistakes that was coming from across the court. Much to the displeasure of Osaka, who was far from her best. Easing to a game away from the biggest win of her career, Gauff faced her only blip in the encounter when she was broken whilst leading 5-3. However, a lacklustre Osaka was still no match for the American who sealed victory in the following game after a forehand from her opponent slammed into the net.
“Her serve is way better than I played her last year.” A disappointed Osaka reflected in her press conference.
“It’s hard because you learn more when you lose. The winner doesn’t really learn that much. I feel like I wasn’t really swinging freely and she was.”
The teenage prodigy is still getting used to life on the tour and is still restricted to how many tournaments she can play under rules set out by the WTA. Joking after her win over Osaka that the deadline for her homework assignments has been delayed ‘because of the circumstances.’
In the last 16, Gauff will play either compatriot Sofia Kenin or China’s Zhang Shuai. Star struck by her latest achievement, when asked about the upcoming match she at first innocently replied ‘right now, I don’t care.’
“Kenin, I’ve been seeing her. We used to train at the same place years ago. I don’t remember. And also Zhang she’s a great player and puts a lot of balls into place.” She previewed.
Gauff is the youngest player to defeat a member of the top five since Jennifer Capriati at the 1991 US Open.
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