EXCLUSIVE: Marian Vajda Opens up About Working With A ‘New Novak Djokovic’ - UBITENNIS
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EXCLUSIVE: Marian Vajda Opens up About Working With A ‘New Novak Djokovic’

Ubitennis has spoken with the coach of the 14-time grand slam champion ahead of his last round-robin match at the ATP Finals on Friday.

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Marian Vajda and Ubaldo Scanagatta - ATP Finals 2018 (photo Alberto Pezzali/Ubitennis)

It was losing the ‘fear of losing’ that has helped Novak Djokovic stage one of the most emphatic comebacks in the recent history of men’s tennis, according to his coach Marian Vajda.

Vajda reunited with the world No.1 in April after previously working together for an 11-year period (2006-2017). Under his guidance, Djokovic has produced a stellar second half of the year that has seen him win four titles, including both Wimbledon and the US Open. Since July, only two players have managed to defeat him (Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov). During that same period, he has achieved a perfect record of 10-0 against top 10 opposition.

“I’ve known him for many years, but I never expected him to return back to that way so fast,” Vajda told Ubitennis. “I had a feeling that I was starting all over again with a new Novak because he had doubts after the (elbow) injury.
“The toughest part was the comparison between now and the past. He always compared himself to a champion and it took a while to get there.”

After suffering a bitterly disappointing loss to Italy’s Marco Cecchinato at the French Open, it was the magic of the grass that turned things around for Djokovic. On the surface, he reached his first final of the season at Queen’s before triumphing at The All England Club for the fourth time in his career.

“When he lost a match point to Marin Cilic (in the final at Queen’s), he started to believe. He said ‘it’s a final, finally I have reached a final,’’ Vajda commented about the start of Djokovic’s turning point this season.

Less than two weeks after falling to Cilic, the Serbian got the better of nemesis Rafael Nadal in a five-set epic at Wimbledon. At the time the Spaniard was the highest ranked player he has defeated in 2018. An achievement Vajda said spurred on Djokovic’s resurgence.

“The biggest change for him, I think, was his win over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. It was an unbelievable match. I think after that he got belief and lost the fear of losing.”

It is unclear what the future hold for the Vajda-Djokovic partnership. The Slovakian coach had previously said that traveling around the world was tough on his family. His daughter is also a promising tennis player that he guides. When asked about what his plans are, Vajda gave little away. Diplomatically saying that he will ‘wait and see’ how life on the tour goes.

The full interview with Marian Vajda

Note: Article by Adam Addicott, interview conducted by Ubaldo Scanagatta.

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Kei Nishikori completes his third came-back win to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open

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Kei Nishikori won his third five-set match at this year’s edition of the Australian Open by completing his third come-back from two sets down with a 6-7 (8-10) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 7-6 (10-8) win over Pablo Carreno Busta after a 5-hour and 5-minute battle.

Kei Nishikori lived up to his reputation as a marathon man, when he completed his third come-from-behind win at the 2019 Australian Open following up his previous two five-set wins over Kamil Majchrzak and Ivo Karlovic.

Carreno Busta went down a break twice in the early stages of the opening set, but he managed to pull back both breaks in the fourth and sixth games to draw level to 3-3. Nishikori got an early mini-break to take a 2-0 lead, but Carreno Busta won three consecutive points for 3-2 after three errors from Nishikori. The Spaniard did not convert three set points at 6-5, 7-6 and 8-7, but he converted his fourth chance for 10-8 with a forehand winner.

Carreno Busta went up a set and a break with two forehand winners in the third game before saving two break points at 2-1. The Spanish player did not convert two set points at 5-3, when he made two forehand errors as Nishikori was serving at 15-40, but he closed out the second set at love in the 10th game.

Nishikori went down a break in the fifth game of the third set, but he broke straight back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Nishikori won the tie-break 7-4 to keep his hopes alive Nishikori broke serve in the first game of the fourth set at 30, but Carreno Busta broke straight back to draw level to 2-2. Nishikori broke for the second time in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead and earned three break points for 5-2 in the seventh game, but Carreno Busta held his serve. Nishikori held his next three service games at love to seal the fourth set 6-4.

Nishikori converted his third break point chance in the third game of the fifth set to take a 2-1 lead. The Japanese player came back from 15-40 down in the sixth game to hold his serve at deuce for 4-2, but he dropped his serve while he was serving for the match in the 10th game at 5-4. Carreno Busta built up a 8-5 lead in the decisive super tie-break, but Nishikori reeled off the final five points to seal a thrilling five-set match.

“I don’t know what to say. That was the toughest match. I have no idea how I broke back and I fough my way through. It was a great match. I feel like I have not played enough. It hasn’t been easy of course, especially not today. It was hard against Karlovic with a super tie-break, but today had longer rallies”, said Nishikori.

The Japanese star will face Novak Djokovic, who beat Danil Medvedev 6-4 6-7 6-3 6-2 in his fourth round match. Djokovic leads 15-2 in his 17 head-to-head matches against Nishikori.

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Lucas Pouille beats Borna Coric in four sets to set up a quarter final against Milos Raonic in Melbourne

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Lucas Pouille upset Borna Coric in four sets by the scoreline of 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 7-5 7-6 (7-2) after 3 hours and 15 minutes to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Pouille set up a quarter final against Canadian player Milos Raonic, who beat Alexander Zverev 6-1 6-1 7-6 (7-5). The Frenchman has not won a single set in his three head-to-head matches against Raonic.

Coric broke serve in the first game of the opening set, but Pouille pulled back the break in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Both players held serve in the next games to set up a tie-break. Coric converted the first of his two set points at 6-4 in the tie-break with his ninth ace to close out the first set.

Pouille got the only break in the seventh game of the second set to draw level to 1 set apiece after Coric made his fourth double fault the match and a forehand error.

Both players held their serve in the first ten games of the third set. Coric went down 0-40 on serve in the 11th game, but he managed to saved the first two break points. Pouille converted his third opportunity with a forehand winner to seal the third set 7-5.

Pouille got an immediate break in the first game of the fourth set. Coric converted his fourth break-back point chance at deuce to draw level to 4-4 setting up a second tie-break. Pouille sealed the win on his first match point, when Coric made his 55th unforced error of the match.

Pouille fired 57 winners and won 66 % of his second serve points.

Lucas Pouille has become the 13th French player to reach the quarter final at the Australian Open and the first since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2017. The Frenchman reached the third quarter final at Grand Slam level in his career after Wimbledon and the US Open in 2016.

Pouille lost in the first round for the fifth consecutive year at the 2018 edition of the Australian Open and won his fifth title in Montpellier against his compatriot Richard Gasquet after saving two match points in the semifinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Pouille reached a career-high of world number 10 after advancing to his third ATP Tour level final in Dubai, where he lost against Roberto Bautista Agut. After a difficult second half of the season Pouille hired Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach.

“It feels great. It has been a tough match against Borna. He is one of the best players in the world. The last time we played I lost 6-4 in the third set, so I knew what to expect. A few points here and there. In the first tie-break I had 5-4 and made two lets and the ball went out. It was just a few details that made the difference. I am now very happy to be in the quarter final. The atmosphere is great here. In the previous round I played against Popyrin, an Australian guy, and the atmosphere was just electric”,said Pouille.

Pouille has not won a set in his three head-to-head matches against his next rival Milos Raonic and lost in straight sets against the Canadian player in their previous head-to-head match at the 2016 Australian Open.

“He is playing well. I watched the match against Alexander Zverev. I am going to be ready for it and try to reach my first semifinal”,said Pouille.

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Racket-Smashing Alexander Zverev Unfazed By Shock Australian Open Exit

The world No.4 reacts to his disappointing loss at Melbourne Park.

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‘I’m not happy, but I’m not depressed’ was Alexander Zverev’s response to his surprise defeat to Milos Raonic at the Australian Open.

The German fourth seed produced an erratic performance during his 6-1, 6-1, 7-6(5), loss to the world No.17 as he failed to hold serve in six out of his first seven service games. Zverev’s lacklustre performance saw him make more unforced errors than winners (23-21) and produced 10 double faults. At one stage of the match, Zverev let his own emotions get the better of him. Trailing 1-6, 1-4, he decided to destroy one of his rackets on the court. An act that unsurprisingly earned him a code violation.

“It made me feel better. I was very angry, so I let my anger out.” Zverev said during his press conference.
“I played bad. The first two sets, especially, I played horrible. I mean, it’s just tough to name one thing. I didn’t serve well, didn’t play well from the baseline. Against a quality player like him, it’s tough to come back from that.”

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1087214145957752833

Monday’s loss continues Zverev’s patchy record in grand slam tournaments. Tipped by many as a future world No.1 in the sport, he has only managed to reach the quarter-finals of a major in one out of 15 attempts. His sole success was at the French Open last year. On the other hand, his run to the last 16 in Melbourne was his best run yet at the tournament.

“I’m not happy, but I’m not depressed, either. It’s fine. It’s a tennis match.” He reflected.
“I have learned to take tennis matches as tennis matches and not the end of the world. If I would think it’s the end of the world every time I lose a tennis match, I would be very depressed about 15 to 20 times a year. So I’m not going to do that.”

Heading into the Australian Open, there were concerns about Zverev’s fitness. The week prior he was dealing with issues concerning his hamstring and foot. However, the 21-year-old ruled out that any kind of injury had an impact of his match against Raonic.

Trying to pinpoint the cause of his display, the world No.4 admitted that he would have liked a longer off-season. Zverev ended 2018 by winning the ATP Finals on November 19th and returned to action on December 30th to play in the Hopman Cup alongside Angelique Kerber.

“For sure, I didn’t have a very long off-season, didn’t have a lot of rest. But, you know, this is us as tennis players. I’m happy how the season ended. I wouldn’t want it the other way.” Zverev stated.
“It’s always a give and take. If the season is 11 months long, it’s always that kind of give and take in what you do, how you rest, and how much work you put in. That’s just how it is for us tennis players.” He added.

Zverev’s conqueror Raonic will play either Lucas Pouille or Borna Coric in the next round.

Zverev’s grand slam record

Tournament 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 W–L Win %
Australian Open A Q1 1R 3R 3R 4R 7–4 64%
French Open A Q2 3R 1R QF 6–3 67%
Wimbledon A 2R 3R 4R 3R 8–4 67%
US Open Q2 1R 2R 2R 3R 4–4 50%
Win–Loss 0–0 1–2 5–4 6–4 10–4 3–1 25–15 62%

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