Record-Breaking Novak Djokovic Not The Easiest To Work With, Says Coach Ivanisevic - UBITENNIS
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Record-Breaking Novak Djokovic Not The Easiest To Work With, Says Coach Ivanisevic

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Goran Ivanisevic admits it hasn’t been plain sailing in the build-up to Novak Djokovic’s historic achievement at the French Open.

The Serbian defeated Casper Ruud in straight sets on Sunday to become the first man to win a 23rd major title. Djokovic has also become the first ATP player to have won each of the major events on three or more occasions, as well as the oldest man to win the French Open title. 

The triumph caps off what has been a roller-coaster past few months for the 36-year-old who missed two Masters 1000 events in America due to being unvaccinated against covid-19. Then on the clay he suffered early exits at tournaments in Monte-Carlo and Bosnia before pulling out of the Madrid Open due to an elbow injury. It is easy to forget these setbacks due to his run in the French capital where the only players to take a set off of him were Karen Khachanov and Carlos Alcaraz. 

“He has this software in his head that he can switch when a Grand Slam comes,” Ivanisevic told reporters in Paris. 
“Grand Slams are a different sport compared to other tournaments. He switches his software. The day we arrived here (in Paris), he was better, he was more motivated and he was more hungry.’
“Every day he played better and better. I thought against Alcaraz for one-and-a-half hours he played unbelievably smart and unbelievable tennis.”

Ivanisevic, who won the 2001 Wimbledon title, joined Djokovic’s team in the summer of 2019 and has remained a prominent member ever since. Since then, he has won eight out of his 23 major titles alongside the Croat. 

Speaking during his trophy ceremony, the 36-year-old paid tribute to the effort made by his team and admitted ‘he can be a nightmare’ at times due to his desire to be a perfectionist. Something his mentor also agrees with. 

“He’s not an easy guy, let’s put it this way. Especially when something’s not going his way,” Ivanisevic commented. 
“But we are here to put our back in and to get beaten. That’s what the team is for. We are here for him to feel better and for him to perform better. Sometimes it is not easy. Sometimes it’s very complicated.’
“It has not been an easy journey. We started in Monte-Carlo, then Banja Luka. Rome was a little better but he was still away from his real form. He was torturing us, taking our nails off.”

Whilst he has endured a roller-coaster of emotions, the 51-year-old is relishing his time with Djokovic who will return to world No.1 on Monday following his latest triumph. He describes the tennis star as a ‘ninja’ on the court due to his athletic movement and believes he is still hungry for even more Grand Slam success in the future.

“He has made me a better coach. I had success before with Marin Cilic and I have been a lot of times on the court with him but on the opposite side,” he explains. 
“Every day is a new challenge. He makes you motivated. You have to be motivated more and more every day.’
“Every day it’s something new. A lot of times I disagree, but this is the job. You can’t agree with everything, and we are functioning very well as a team.”

Besides Djokovic, Ivanisevic also has high praise for Alcaraz. The Spaniard was the top seed in Paris and claimed his maiden major title last year at the US Open. He beat Djokovic in their first meeting at the 2022 Madrid Open but lost to him in the semi-finals in Paris. 

“He’s fresh air for tennis, how he plays, how he smiles, how he’s happy, how he plays tennis on the court, the ideas….. it is just amazing,” he said of Alcaraz.
“He’s going to be a threat on grass, he’s gonna be a threat on hard court and he’s gonna be a threat everywhere.”

Ivanisevic will now have a short break before his focus switches to the grass. Djokovic has confirmed that he will not be playing in any tournaments leading up to Wimbledon. 

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World No.32 Davidovich Fokina Replaces Long-Time Coach With Verdasco

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Fernando Verdasco was spotted earlier this week briefly watching Ons Jabeur play at the French Open but his focus this year is on another player.

The former top 10 player has landed a new coaching job after being hired by compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Somebody who he once played a Tour-level doubles match alongside back in 2020. Fokina has opted to stop working with Jorge Aguirre, who has been his mentor since he was a child.

The change comes after what has been a mixed start to the season for Fokina who has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of 11 tournaments played before the start of Roland Garros. His sole win over a top 20 player occurred at the start of 2024 when he beat Hubert Hurkacz at the United Cup.  

“I will be very brief. I have left it with Jorge (Aguirre) and I start with Verdasco, with whom I have had a good relationship for years. He has not officially retired, but I knew that he was training other players and it was time,” Fokina told reporters after beating Valentin Vacherot in the first round of the French Open.
“It was time to close a stage and start a new one. With his experience, Verdasco can help me a lot to face the games, to assume that pressure and tension of the competition.”

Verdasco has won seven ATP titles during his career and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open. At this year’s Madrid Open, he briefly helped Jabeur whose main coach Issam Jellali was unable to attend the tournament. 

Fokina will next play Casper Ruud in Roland Garros.

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Roland Garros 2024: Casper Ruud Explains Geneva Decision, Martin Etcheverry Talks Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Two-time finalist Casper Ruud is into the second round with a straight sets win over Felipe Meligeni Alves.

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Casper Ruud has explained the decision behind playing in Geneva last week after he defeated Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-3 6-4 6-3.

The world number seven is into the second round after a straight sets win over the Brazilian qualifier.

Ruud has reached the final the past two occasions here having lost to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in those respective finals.

Now the Norwegian is targeting more success in Paris this year and spoke about his opening round performance after the match, “Yeah, I was honestly very happy. I think it was a good start,” Ruud stated in his press conference.

“I think Felipe is a dangerous player, and obviously I didn’t know him so well. So not easy to know what’s going to come out of his racquet. I think he was firing pretty good serves and forehands.

“Overall, I think it was a pretty high-quality match and happy to be through in straight sets. That’s just what I was kind of hoping and looking for. Yeah, I’m very happy to be through.”

Given Ruud’s history at Roland Garros, there would be no reason to suggest that the Norwegian would need to play his way into form.

However that’s exactly what he did in Geneva the week before Roland Garros as he won the title in Switzerland.

After his opening round match Ruud was asked about why he always plays in Geneva instead of practicing on-site in Paris, “No, I decide based on the fact that I enter the tournament, and with the purpose of going. But of course, if you do super well in Madrid and Rome and you play, let’s say, 10 matches or more within those two weeks or the two tournaments, maybe, depending on how your body feels, it’s kind of easier to skip it,” Ruud explained.

“But that wasn’t the case for me in Madrid and Rome. I played only four matches there. I lost early in Rome. If I didn’t play Geneva I would have had 17 or 18 days since I lost in Rome until starting in Roland Garros, which in my eyes, my feeling, is just a bit too much. For some players, they don’t think it’s too much. They don’t have a problem with it.

“But for me I like going into tournament kind of mode and feeling in the zone when you’re playing an official match. That’s why I like playing. It gives me kind of confidence and match feeling going into a Grand Slam, which is the Grand Slam that I personally feel like I have the most chances to do well in.”

Ruud will aim to continue his good run of form when he takes on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round.

Martin Etcheverry Speaks On Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Finally Tomas Martin Etcheverry defeated Arthur Cazaux in four sets to seal his place in the second round.

The Argentinian is a big Novak Djokovic fan and after the match spoke about his love for Roland Garros and has tipped Djokovic to win this year’s tournament, “I think it’s my favorite tournament since I was a child, and I always want to play here,” Martin Etcheverry explained.

“This is a moment of the year that I want to be here and try to play my best tennis because I want to get a good result here.

“Yeah, is he my idol, and he is the No. 1 of the world. I don’t know, like six years right now. Yeah, I always try to watch him, trying to improve the game. I always trying to saw him. Yeah, I think he’s going to be No. 1 a lot of time. I don’t know if they have a good year this year, but I think it’s Novak Djokovic. Maybe he can win this tournament.”

Martin Etcheverry will play another Frenchman in the form of Arthur Rinderknech in the second round with Ruud being the potential third round opponent.

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Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist Van De Zandschulp Pondering Retirement After French Open Exit

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image via https://x.com/Boticvdz/

Botic van de Zandschulp has revealed he is losing his passion for tennis and is considering retiring from the sport following his exit from the French Open on Monday.

The 29-year-old was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Fabio Fognini, who eased his way to a 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, victory. It is the second Grand Slam in a row where he has fallen at the first hurdle with the 2022 Wimbledon championships being the last major event where he won back-to-back matches.   

“I don’t look forward to competitions at all anymore,” Zandschulp told Dutch media.
“I have been asking myself more and more lately whether I want to continue.
“You have to do work that you enjoy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then. But if there are too many, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue.” 

Zandschulp has been the top-ranked player in his country with his most notable achievement being a run to the quarter-finals of the 2021 US Open. The former world No.22 is a two-time runner-up at the Munich Open but is yet to win an ATP Tour title. He has registered a total of six wins over top 10 players, including Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. 

However, recent difficulties on the Tour have left the Dutchman questioning if he wants to continue playing.  

“I like the training. Those are great days. But when I get up in the morning, I no longer look forward to the matches at all.” He commented.

Zandschulp’s remarks could be a reaction to his frustrating loss to Fognini. However, he confirmed that he has been considering retiring for a long time. 

“It was the worst match I have played in my life,” he said. 
“Of course, it is now fresh after the match. That plays a role in my mind, but the thoughts of quitting have been there for a long time. It is not an easy life as a tennis player. You really live your life, play thirty weeks a year and travel from pillar to post.
“If you don’t play, someone else will pass you by (in the rankings). That’s why I now play extra tournaments instead of charging myself at home.”

Zandschulp is currently ranked 102nd in the world and is scheduled to play in the French Open doubles event on Tuesday.

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