How Novak Djokovic’s coach found success as tennis player’s top coach

( — Novak Djokovic has been a bridesmaid in 15 Grand Slams, most recently at the Australian Open in January, where he lost to Andy Murray. His last major title was the 2016 French Open. On Tuesday he announced he will retire, after the season’s final Grand Slam tournament. His decision comes only three months after back surgery.

We sat down with Djokovic’s longtime coach, Marian Vajda, to take a look at how he’s found success.

1. What was it about Novak Djokovic’s family that drew you to him so quickly?

Not much different, the same as any other family. They all have different families, but, they have principles and the same values. In talking to Djokovic I don’t think the attributes came from me. I just believe in Novak’s potential, he was gifted, the same as every other kid in their early 20s.

2. Did you plan to go into coaching at this stage of his career?

No. Because as a player he was the same, I don’t think any sportsman, not even super talents, can come that far from being an average player to Grand Slam champion. What I did was take him down to the level where I thought I could do something special for him and I thought it was the right time to stop.

3. How has Novak changed?

Actually we got better and better as we go along. We adapted to each other, training, preparing better. It was never perfect, but we get better and better in every tournament. The hard work has paid off.

4. It’s a fair assessment you’ve had a successful partnership. Did you ever expect it to last this long?

No. But maybe it was his route to get back to his peak. I always believed it was possible and I’m very proud.

5. What have you learned from him?

We’ve learned to cope with ups and downs of his career. He’s never called a trainer a bad word or ever been upset with me. Some coaches blame each other, but that’s not our way of working together.

6. Given his recent health problems what do you think he would have been like in Australia if he was healthy?

It’s really hard to say. But he always played at the level of his old self. One thing he has in his favour is he always pushes himself. I think that will help him recover, get ready and perform well in the next Grand Slam.

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