Very interesting with Wojtek Fibek on Dkokovic in l'Equipe Sept 3 2013: (Known Djokovic) since he was 17. I know him through Riccardo Piatti, who was working with Ivan Ljubicic. Ivan was having a tough time in 2005. He was playing badly. Ricardo told me: "We'll spend some practice time in Monte Carlo. You're smart. I'm interested in your opinion." So I spent some time with them. It worked out well as Ivan won Metz and Vienna back to back, then played in the final in Madrid. Novak was part of the group at the time.Riccardo said he was very talented but needed to work on his volley and his backhand slice. After I finished working with Ivan, I spent some time working with Novak.
(Lost sight of him?) No. We both live in Monte Carlo and we're neighbours. Our paths crossed walking the dog and eating in the same restaurants. He's a nice and easygoing guy. We talked about his tennis, but informally. After his big year in 2011 I told him "I think you need to be more aggressive. And you complicate matches too much because of your forehand." Things like that ... 1-2 minutes. Nothing official, just short comments here and there.
(How the USO?) I was in Europe, dividing time between Monte Carlo and Megève. One evening I was dining in Berlin. It was just after Cincinnati. They called me and said: "Come give us a hand for the USO." I thought they were talking about the 2nd week. "No no, you have to be there tomorrow!". I panicked. I didn't know where I'd put my passport with the American visa. I even went to my mother's in Warsaw to look for it! I finally found it and took the first flight.
(Why you?) :) It may have something to do with Lendl being on the other side (with Murray). Vajda, he know everything. He knows I was with Ivan when he was young. Marian and Novak undoubtedly told themselves it was a way of counterbalancing Lendl's weight on Andy's team. Lendl's done a good job with Murray. Because I know very well how Ivan works, I could probably help Andy. There's no competition between us. They asked me to guide them during this USO. Guide them to victory.
(What's with Novak the last few months?) He could have won RG twice. But he lost by very little against Nadal. It's still in his head. During the Wimbledon final, he was ahead in the 2nd and 3rd sets. He still lost. But he's not that far away...
My job is to prepare him in the best possible way to win the USO.
I'm not here only for tactics. I'm involved in everything. Especially the details. I tell them to hit at Flushing one day, or Manhattan the next, for some peace and quiet. Things like that...
Tactics too, but I also talk about concentration, motivation, behaviour, attitude. My idea is that Novak finds the fundamentals of his game. Playing drop shot-lob is fine, but you don't win matches with that. In any case, whether it's his on and off court attitude, the mood of the team, tactics, it's all related. I didn't come with tricks or a a huge extreme theory. I ask myself questions: how should Novak play to win? How should he use his serve? How is he playing? How to take charge of a rally? What shot to use at a specific time in a rally? Those are the basics of a good performance, and therefore of winning. I take the opponent into account too. If he knows Novak won't give him anything, he'll take chances and make more mistakes.
(His technique?) No. Telling a player that he has to turn his left foot 5 degrees, or open his arm a bit... pffft! It'll work for maybe 5 minutes. But it won't work tomorrow. My vision is more glóbal. Novak is the world number 1, he has no obvious weaknesses. I'm not here to upset things. I try and be precise and positive. Anyway, if I notice something, I talk first of all with Vajda.
(Satisfied so far?) The first week has been a marvel. Vajda told me Novak hasn't played at this level in 1½ years. He's played every point as if it were for the match. That's paramount.
Murray's been on the way up for several months. Why? Because he's there 100% during the important matches. Even when it gets very complicated for him, like at Wimbledon against Verdasco (behind 0-2) he finds a way to figure it out. He's like Connors, McEnroe, Seles or Nadal: he knows exactly when to use 100% of his potential on the 2-3 points that turn a match around. (hesitates) I'm not sure (Novak) is using 100% of his potential ... maybe 80%.
(Why?) Because a lot of things are reducing his concentration on tennis. He has a lot of distractions around him. He's popular, he talks to anyone, he has his role as Serbian "ambassador", which is very close to his heart, he has his children's foundation, his work with his sponsors etc. (pause) In short, there's always something. With all that, can he concentrate 100% on tennis? I ask myself that.