Novak Djokovic is confidently approaching a repeat of Roger Federer’s achievement in Wimbledon victories – the great Swiss has stopped at eight cups, while Novak has seven so far. If he is successful in London this season, the Serb can once again aim for the “Casco” calendar, which Daniil Medvedev deprived him of in 2021. He did not get that chance again thanks to the lifting of covid restrictions in Australia and the US. Because of this, the record holder for the number of majors missed both the Australian Open and the US Open last year.
Djokovic, 36, gives the impression of not only a perfect machine, but also a mental monster. Recover a score of 0: 2 in the final of Roland Garros – 2021 against Tsitsipas? Please. Issue a record 13 tie-break winning streak at the Slams? Easily! Behind the champion’s success is the titanic work of his team, led by Goran Ivanisevic. Horvath joined Novak in 2019 and managed to take him to the next level. Goran is helped by the fact that his career also had a difficult period, but he had the strength to overcome not only the circumstances, but also the internal contradictions.
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Three losses in the Wimbledon final sent Ivanisevic into depression
There is a period in the career of every great player when injury, lack of motivation, burnout or other circumstances prevent you from reaching new heights. For Djokovic, this stage came at the beginning of the 2018 season. The Serb was tormented by severe shoulder pain, he flew out in the first rounds, cursing himself and the team for not understanding how to return to the top level. Novak was even more nervous realizing that he was already 31 years old and there wasn’t much time left to solidify his status as the all-time king of tennis. Nola was then helped by the return of Marjan Vajda to the team, but the Slovakian coach made it clear that he was focused on developing his tennis academy in Bratislava.
Novak Djokovic with the 2022 Wimbledon title trophy
Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images
Djokovic realized that he needed a new mentor, for whom their cooperation would be a mutual challenge. At different periods of his career, Novak worked with specialists, focusing on improving a certain skill. Todd Martin helped him improve his fitness, Wojciech Fibak helped him serve, Boris Becker helped him improve his game on the grass. Each of them made the Serb better, but there were also failures, like in 2016. Then Djokovic contacted Spanish spiritual guru Pepe Imaz, and this was clearly a wrong turn.
Four years ago, the Serb acted less radically and invited Goran Ivanisevic, a great specialist in playing on grass, to the team. “Everyone perceives tennis as a game between the lines of the court, but in reality it is played between each other’s ears,” Djokovic wrote in his autobiography Serve To Win. Novak also wanted help in this matchup from Goran, who faced similar difficulties in his career.
The long-term acquaintance and friendship of the tennis players became important factors of cooperation. On the eve of his triumphant Wimbledon 2001, Ivanisevic trained at the Nika Pilic Academy in Zagreb, and Novak was one of the Croatian’s ball boys.
In 2001, the Croatian became the only Wimbledon winner in history to hold a wild card, one of the best examples of never giving up in sport. And there were reasons to give up: in the 1990s, Goran reached the finals of the London Major three times, invariably losing. In 1992, he was broken by Andre Agassi, and in 1994 and 1998, by Pete Sampras. “Pete’s last loss I will never forget. He was leading in the deciding set with a break, but he didn’t think he was worthy of the title, because this is Sampras himself! You can never think like that, even if you are at the bottom of the ranking,” Ivanishevich lamented.
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In the early 2000s, Goran experienced similar exhaustion, like Djokovic, with the only difference being that Novak became a hostage to his victories (he could not reach a new level due to injuries), and the Croat – for default. Ivanisevic has 10,131 innings of his career, only Federer, Isner and Karlovic have more, and he has always tended to play very aggressively. However, at the beginning of the 2000s there was a break: in training everything went well, but in games he played. Ivanishevich turned to psychologists, tried for a month and a half not to pick up a racket, and even left his family.
Goran Ivanisevic at Wimbledon 2001
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
In 2001, he made his last attempt to revive his career: at the time, Goran was teetering in the middle of the second hundred in the standings and was forced to ask for a wild card for the Slams. In Melbourne, the Croat “shaved”, but at Wimbledon all three of his finals “worked”, and he went to the base. At first, it seemed to the Croatian that he would say goodbye to his favorite tournament already in the first round: in the preparatory tournaments, his tennis did not withstand criticism, moreover, the equipment manufacturer Head sent Goran rackets of less weight than he was used to. .
“I took it ironically: the only reliable tool in life that no psychologist will teach. I decided to just relax and enjoy each day as well as the things that are familiar to me. But after the first victory in London, an unusual emotion came over me. I’m not a superstitious person, but in that tournament he seemed to be crazy. I started my morning watching Teletubbies, then I had dinner in the same restaurant and at the same table. The menu hasn’t changed either: fish soup, lamb with chips and ice cream with chocolate sauce. I also parked the car in one place and washed in the same shower cabin”, Ivanishevich was beating.
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The public loves stories about Cinderella, so they rooted for Goran, who won only nine matches before Wimbledon that season, from the very first fights. After the victory over the Swede Fredrik Jonsson, the Croat unexpectedly easily knocked the titled Spaniard Carlos Moya out of the way, then Andy Roddick, who was advancing rapidly, suffered from him. “In the match with the American I injured my shoulder, so I played with painkillers until the end of the tournament, but there were times when they didn’t help either,” the tennis player complained. This did not stop him from defeating Greg Rusedski in the 1/8 final, and in the quarterfinals to close out the tournament’s main seed, Marat Safin.
Ivanisevic came closest to losing in the semifinals against local star Tim Henman. This time, the crowd was against Goran, anticipating Great Britain’s first representative in 63 years in the final of a local tournament. After the exchange of matches in the third set, Tim plucked up his courage and defeated Goran with a score of 6: 0 in just 15 minutes, after which he immediately made a break in the next set. “I wasn’t very successful and pretty much resigned myself to defeat. I consoled myself with the thought that I had come this far”, recalled the Croatian. The carriage had almost turned into a pumpkin, but the rain saved Ivanisevic.
Tim Henman and Goran Ivanisevic
Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images
The game was postponed to the next day, and a completely different Ivanisevic walked onto the pitch. He played very boldly, flying into the net and turning the match into a decider. And the rain intervened again, so the meeting was postponed again. This circumstance did not affect the mood of the Croatian, who won the fifth set with a score of 6:3.
He dedicated the main victory in life to a friend who died in a car accident.
In the final against Australian Patrick Rafter, the level of drama was also shot. The crazy horse, as Piotr Korda once called Ivanishevich because of his violent nature, took the lead twice in sets, but the opponent rallied. The fate of the title was decided in the fifth installment and from the fourth match point. However, when Goran completed the championship service and won with a score of 9:7, he fell to his knees and cried. “Even Federer didn’t cry as much as I did then,” recalls Goran. – Fortunately, at that time, due to numerous postponements, the match was played on Monday. Fortunately, because I lost my three previous finals, played on Sunday.
Ivanishevich ran up to the podium, where he gave a long hug to his father, who, six months before his son’s triumph, underwent heart bypass. At the award ceremony, the Croatian said he dedicates the victory to his friend and NBA star Drazen Petrovic, who died in a car accident in 1993.
Goran won the coveted trophy on his fourth attempt.
Photo: Bongarts/Getty Images
After completing his playing career, Ivanisevic established himself as a successful manager. In 2014 he inspired his compatriot Marin Cilic to win the US Open and also collaborated with Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic. All the players who worked with the Croatian notice the improvement in the serve. “With a high-quality throw, a specific sound must occur, if it is not there, then something goes wrong: a wrong throw, the moment the racket approaches the ball, and many more factors. This moment we work with Novak almost perfectly. I really like the sound of his racket hitting the ball. Even I did not have such a thing, ”Ivanisevic is proud.
Another task for the Croat is to motivate and protect Djokovic. A few years ago, the wayward Nick Kyrgios admitted to being fed up with Novak and his “morbid obsession to be loved like Federer.” Ivanisevic immediately snapped at the Australian: “Man, you can’t talk bad about the guys who play with you on tour 350 days a year.” This guy knows how to stand up for more than just himself.