Novak Djokovic: “I’m Not A Robot, And I Will Keep Expressing My Views” - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic: “I’m Not A Robot, And I Will Keep Expressing My Views”

The world N.1 is in Belgrade to play in the opening weekend of the Adria Tour exhibition series, and was interviewed for a local podcast to discuss some of the accusations that have been made to him over the last few weeks.

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Novak Djokovic is back in his hometown and training for his debut in the Adria Tour, which will start in the Serbian capital on Saturday before journeying all over the Balkans. The Australian Open champion took some time off to join a podcast, “Wish & Go”, owned by Sportklub, a Serbian website. He spoke for almost an hour and covered several subjects, particularly the controversy surrounding his lockdown comments on social media about vaccines and more. 

 

Firstly, Nole highlighted his awareness of the status he enjoys:

“I am in a very privileged position, because my success in a global sport allows my thoughts to travel long distances – I have a powerful megaphone. Not many athletes are in this position.” Then, he was asked if he had any explanations for his “non-conventional” stance on a few themes, to which he replied: “It’s very common in society. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to deal with all kinds of controversial subjects. People always refer to the responsibility I have, and to the fact that every bit of information I share has a resounding impact in terms of how far it reaches and of how many people are exposed to it. I’m not saying I’m blameless in this regard. Sometimes I say some things and when I think about them afterwards I realise that I shouldn’t have phrased them as I did. I’m human, and I have no problems to admit when I’m wrong. However, I’m not a robot, and I can’t spend my life in a bubble or a shell, that’s just not who I am. I don’t feel superior to other people, and I don’t criticise those who refrain from speaking up on social issues, but I’m a person who wants to highlight certain things, because I exert an influence on society and I want to be able to share things that through my experience might be useful to some people. Now, the way people react to it and appropriate that information isn’t something I can influence very much. Some groups of people, you might call them the elites, you might call them the establishment, they want some things to stay a certain way, and they want everybody to be silent and just listen to what they say. Put simply, this is something I deem unfair and undemocratic. If I think that something is fair and in accordance with God’s commandments and with the values and principles of life, then I must support it. I support the struggle for equality, respect, fair play, decency… these are the values I support and that I’m in harmony with.”    

One of the accusations made to Djokovic is that he’s been giving his opinion on matters he’s not an expert on. This is his reply:

“I don’t think someone should be prevented from expressing his opinion on something just because he isn’t an expert about it. I think this is clear from what I’ve been saying for the last 15 years. I’ll make an example to show how I apply this concept to myself: people come to me and tell me stuff about tennis, and I have used what they told me even if their tennis proficiency was inferior to mine. It’s the truth, I listen to U14 and U16 coaches, and I search for different opinions on the Internet, in person or through friends, because I believe that if you’re open-minded, then you can always learn something. You should always ask yourself, ‘Could I apply any of this to my game?’, instead of having an attitude of superiority such as, ‘who are you to talk to me about tennis?’ I could have a similar attitude, I know many people who do, not just in tennis, but in life in general, but in that way you prevent your own growth and you might miss some signals that God sent you from above through the person who’s in front of you, a person that might not have the same level of competence as you, but who is sharing some of his or her observations with you. When you look at it from this perspective, then it becomes interesting when someone talks about something, as long as he or she does it respectfully. If this is missing, then it’s not right.”

Djokovic also debunked the myth according to which he didn’t eat anything before last year’s final at Wimbledon:

“It’s not like I didn’t eat. This a very interesting point to clarify. I’d been discussing autophagy [Editor’s Note: a physiological phenomenon in which the body renews itself by cleaning out damaged cells] and fasting. When people think about fasting, they think that it means to eat nothing, but that’s not true, it just means to have extended time-lapses between meals. When you eat, you ingest liquids and nutrients that don’t burden your digestive system and that don’t deprive you of the energy you need for training and physical activity. I’m not used to eating much before matches. I don’t have four eggs with bacon for breakfast like I know some athletes do. Since the Wimbledon final was scheduled for 2pm, I only had liquids and light foods, such as boiled veggies with no condiments. To muster my strength, I had fruit and oatmeal, I believe. Sure, I drink a lot of fluids, I hydrate with vitamin supplements and sports drinks which provide me the necessary energy amount. This is true for me, though. I know many athletes who like to eat and feel full, but tennis is different from any other sport in terms of physical requirements and needs – that final lasted for four and a half to five hours. During matches, I mostly eat dates, and sometimes a small banana. I drink water and energy drinks. I strongly believe in the mental aspect of the game and in managing emotions. When you’re afraid, your stomach cramps and you can’t eat anything. Excitement, fear, nerves, motivations, and everything you feel going into a Wimbledon final, they make your stomach cramp. You just don’t think about eating. You are all in, and you know that you’ll have the energy because everything you have done up to that point will allow you to be at your best.”

Another thorny subject was then discussed, e.g. whether Nole is bothered by what some commentators say about him, and he was also asked how keenly he follows the game when he’s not playing:

“Honestly, in recent years I’ve been listening very rarely to what commentators say. There’s a few I like to listen to though: “Viska” (Editor’s note: the nickname of Nebojsa Viskovic, one of the podcast’s two interviewers, also known as one of the leading Serbian commentators), Lleyton Hewitt, who does a great job at the Australian Open, John McEnroe, and Boris Becker. There are also some I don’t really like, because they manage to make me nervous, so I turn down the volume when they’re on. During Grand Slam tournaments I mainly follow the evening matches. During the morning I stay with the kids, so I can’t do it. Generally, I watch the matches of my great rivals, Federer and Nadal, I never miss those. We follow each other, it’s normal and logical. I watch replicas on YouTube, so that I can skip some parts and watch just those I’m interested in: key moments and tipping points in the score, just to see how a certain player did under pressure.”

Djokovic came back later to the subject of commentators [Editor’s Note: the question also made reference to a survey among the readers of the site that produced discordant views about Viska’s bias towards Nole, with users saying that his comments are either too much or too little in favour of Serbia’s best] when he recounted an anecdote about something that happened to him just a few days ago:

“I was taking a walk with my wife and kids along the Sava [Belgrade’s river]. We were in a playground, and, at some point, the parents of the other kids arrived and immediately a small mob formed, when a man came to me and said, ‘do you know that I’m the only person in Serbia who supports Federer and not you?’, to which I answered, ‘I didn’t. I thought there were more, but if you really are the only one, then you’re a superhero. How can I turn you to my side?’ Then we talked a little bit and he asked if I was mad at him for that. I told him that it was one of his prerogatives to cheer for someone else. He asked me what kind of person Federer was and we kept joking around. When he left, he told me that he was happy to have spoken to me, but he was a Federer fan because of his volleys. Everybody has his favourite player or commentator. The voice, the way you speak, somebody might find it irritating, somebody else reassuring. Personally, I can’t say to anyone: ‘You must cheer for me.’ Logically, we come from the same country, so I expect you to sympathise with Serbian players, but at the same time, why should this be an obligation? You’re not obliged to do it. If you’re a commentator and you prefer Federer or somebody else, then talk the way you want. I like it when broadcasters express their personality while they’re commentating on matches, and I like it when they are authentic and take responsibility for it while remaining impartial and respectful, without crossing the limit of decency like some do.” There is a final caveat though: “In Davis Cup ties, everything is allowed.”

Translated by Tommaso Villa and Marco Tidu

 

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‘I Love Tennis Because Of Him’ – Argentine Football Sensation Praises Roger Federer

The forward for Juventus F.C. Speaks out about the 20-time Grand Slam champion as well as other topics concerning the world of tennis.

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Roger Federer is used to various public figures praising him for his record-breaking career with his latest compliment coming from a star of Argentinian football.

 

Paulo Dybala, who has played for Serie A club Juventus since 2015, says he always tries to watch tennis because of him. The 26-year-old spoke out about the Swiss Maestro during a video Q and A session with the Tennis Channel for whom he is currently an ‘athlete analyst’ for. When asked ‘who was the player that made you fall in love with the game?’ he replied with Federer.

“Well at home, we used to watch a lot of sports, the TV was always on, and the sport we watched the most was football, followed by tennis,” Dybala said. “I always had a lot of admiration and respect. I liked Roger Federer’s style… I believe that I and many people have him as a tennis reference. We try to watch his matches, he has a style and elegance that makes everyone want to be like him. I always tried to watch him play so I love tennis because of him.”

Although Federer isn’t the only tennis player to have drawn praise from Dybala, who was part of his country’s national football team for the 2018 World Cup. He also speaks about his ‘great relationship’ with Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman recently broke into the world’s top 10 for the first time in his career after reaching the semi-finals of the French Open.

“I have a great relationship with Diego, I have known him for years,” he said. “We always talk and I am very happy with what he is achieving.’
“I text him after some of his matches to congratulate him for what he has done.”

It was at the French Open this year where Rafael Nadal won the tournament for a historic 13th time in his career after defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Dybala says that there are ‘no words’ to describe the latest achievement by the world No.2.

“Rafael Nadal won Roland Garros in a match in which he gave no chance to Novak Djokovic,” Dybala reflected. “I think it was more than well-deserved to win his 13th Roland Garros in his career. Something amazing. He matched Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slams. There are no words for this player, no words.”

Dybala is currently dating Oriana Sabatini who is the niece of 1990 US Open champion Gabriela Sabatini.

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Dan Evans On The Look Out For New Coach

The 30-year-old has come to a surprise decision to end his current coaching agreement despite achieving a career ranking high earlier this year.

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British No.1 Dan Evans is making a big change to his team after confirming that he will part ways with coach Mark Hilton at the end of the season.

 

The world No.35 reunited with Hilton just last year after also previously working with him prior to his drugs ban in 2017. Under his guidance Evans has achieved several wins over top 10 players, reached his first ever semi-final of an ATP 500 event in Dubai and peaked at a ranking best of 28th in March.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Mark for his work and efforts over the past 12 months and we are both excited for what is next for each of our respective careers,” Evans said.

Evans’ announcement came on the same day he ended his five-match losing streak on the Tour. In the first round of the European Open on Tuesday he defeated Italy’s Salvatore Caruso in three sets. Making it his first win since the US Open when he defeated Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild.

Hilton will now return to working for the British LTA. A former player himself he reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Wimbledon boys doubles championships and peaked at a ranking high of 202 on the ATP Tour in singles. His best performance at a Grand Slam occurred at Wimbledon when as a wild card he stunned Spain’s Albert Costa in the first round of the 2004 tournament. Besides Evans, he has also previously worked with the likes of Liam Broady and Kyle Edmund.

“After discussing our plans for 2021, Dan and I have made the mutual decision to part ways at the end of November,” Hilton said in a statement.
“Both of us are very proud of our collaboration this year, helping Dan achieve a career-high ranking of number 28, seven wins over top-20 players and reaching his first ATP 500 semi-final.
“I’m looking forward to taking the experience I have gained over the last three years at the highest levels of the ATP Tour and re-investing that back into the LTA’s Performance Team for the benefit of our British players and coaches.”

It is unclear as to who may step in as Evans’ next coach. The Brit will return to action on Wednesday when he plays Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

Evans’ win-loss for 2020 currently stands at 14-11 on the ATP Tour.

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Borna Coric Admits He Was Difficult To Work With As He Targets Top 10 Milestone

The Croatian No.1 believes ‘controlled aggression’ is key to rising back up the rankings.

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Croatian tennis star Borna Coric says he has become more ‘easy-going’ in recent years after working under a variety of different coaches.

 

The 23-year-old has been guided on the Tour by no fewer than eight coaches since 2014 which includes the likes of Thomas Johansson (2015) and Riccardo Piatti (2017-2019). At present, he is now working with Martin Stepanek. A former Czech player who has worked with the likes of Thomas Berdych and Ivan Dodig.

“I am not going to deny it, I was difficult to work with before, high-maintenance if you like, and now I am more easy-going. But I really have never been the type of guy that fires a coach after two first-round losses,” Coric told tennismajors.com.
“Actually, looking back at all my coaches, only with one it was entirely up to me, where I felt we weren’t working well and I decided to end it. With everyone else there were different issues – personal problems on their side, or inability to reach an agreement in regard to finances, or that the coach wasn’t able to travel enough weeks with me, things like that.”

Coric’s various changes in his team can be partly attributed to his roller-coaster journey. Growing up he was portrayed as the next big thing in the sport following a series of high-profile wins during his teenage years. At the age of 17 he defeated Rafael Nadal at the Swiss Indoors followed by Andy Murray in Dubai the year after.

Despite his early promise, Coric is yet to scale the top of men’s tennis with his best ranking being 12th which was first achieved back in 2018. He looked on course to rise further last season but another coaching split combined with back injury problems resulted in him falling down the rankings again.

Given that the average age of professional tennis players peaking is on the rise, there is still time for Coric to get the breakthrough many have predicted for him. He is once again showing signs of a resurgence during what has been a limited 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the US Open, which was his 22nd appearance in a main draw of a Grand Slam, he reached the quarter-finals of a major for the first time in his career. More recently at the St. Petersburg Open the Croat reached the final before losing to the in-form Andrey Rublev.

As to what the key has been to Coric’s recent resurgence, he explains that it is due to what he describes as ‘controlled aggression.’

“It depends on numerous factors (whether he’ll be aggressive). The surface, my gut feeling, am I confident or not, if I am moving well and feeling fresh, have I got the right feel for the ball, the opponent’s style of play… A lot comes into it, but generally speaking, I am a far better player when I am being aggressive, not just retrieving, even though I am perhaps making a bit more errors,” he explains.
“You could see that on display in New York and me being aggressive, along with further improvement of my serve, are two of the biggest emphasis of my work with Martin. I am not there yet, but if I am healthy and able to maintain the level I had at the US Open, then I can get close to Top 10. But it’s still a long way to go.”

Coric is currently ranked 24th in what is his best ranking so far this season and has achieved a win-loss of 14-10. Out of those 14 wins, two were over top 10 players Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Coric’s 2020 season summary

  • ATP Cup – one win and two losses
  • Australian Open – lost in first round to Sam Querrey
  • Buenos Aires – granted a bye in the first round, lost in the second to Thiago Monterio
  • Rio de Janeiro – reached the semi-finals before losing to Christian Garin
  • Western and Souther Open – in first ATP tournament following a five-month break due to COVID-19, Coric reached the second round before going out to David Goffin
  • US Open: Achieved his best ever Grand Slam result by reaching the quarter-finals. He was knocked out of the tournament by Alexander Zverev
  • Rome – lost in round two to Stefano Travaglia
  • French Open – upset in the first round by Norbert Gombos
  • St. Petersburg – achieved best result of the season so far by reaching the final.

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