It’s been four days since Novak Djokovic lost to Rafael Nadal in the Roland-Garros quarter-finals, but the dust hasn’t settled yet.
Goran Ivanisevic, Djokovic’s coach, is still in the legends tournament – and talking to the Tennis Majors there he can’t understand some of the things he saw in the match with Nadal, but he’s very optimistic about the grass season and Wibledon.
“I have to be brutally honest to begin with – I’m in a funk and can’t sleep,” he said. “I can’t say I’m disappointed, but I’m sad. It was not a perfect match on either side. Rafa didn’t play a spectacular match, but the body language decided, from the first point to the last: Rafa’s body language and Novak’s body language.
There was no need for a follow-up question; you could see how much Ivanisevic cares about Djokovic.
“I warned him, I even told you guys (journalists) that the start of the match could be decisive, but again, a bad start… And then, after the turnaround in the second set, it’s incomprehensible his way to play the third Positioner. It was as if he lacked energy and as if he didn’t believe enough that he could win. You can’t afford that against Rafa because it’s his tournament.
What do you think was the reason for Djokovic’s body language, as it’s something even casual tennis fans have noticed?
Yes, everyone noticed. I don’t know, we haven’t spoken yet. That’s why I’m so troubled by this match, I can’t sleep. What would happen if he had won the fourth set, no one knows, but that’s just a good old “what if”. He had two set points: the first was an easy unforced error from the backhand, on the second he approached the net with the ball in the middle of the field, so Rafa passed him. Maybe it would have been different, maybe not, but I still don’t understand the body language and the lack of energy. Novak had too many ups and downs, while Rafa was consistent and he absolutely deserved to win this match.
Before the game you told us that you were happy that 80% of the crowd supported Nadal because Novak then has someone to be angry with, but it seems that this time it affected him more than in the past . Would you accept?
I mean, we knew it was going to be like this. Before the match, I said 80% out of respect, but in reality it was 99.9% of the pro-Rafa public. The only thing that I don’t like and that’s really unfair is that the crowd booed Djokovic when he entered the pitch. I mean, he’s the No. 1 player in the world and he’s won 20 Grand Slam titles. There’s no reason to do such a thing – whether you like it or not, you have to respect it. Afterwards, congratulations to Rafa, of course we knew it was going to be like that. I don’t know if Novak was bothered by that or not – he learned to deal with that and that can’t be an excuse, in my opinion.
I just want to say one more thing that I didn’t want to talk about before the game. It is complete and utter nonsense that for Novak it was better to play the game at night. If we go back two years, Nadal won Roland-Garros in October when it was ten degrees. People were saying that Novak was the favorite tonight but there was no basis for that, I even think the game tonight suited Rafa.
Why do you think that is?
Because Novak has to focus on himself. It was like “oh, Rafa’s ball won’t bounce (high)”, but Novak’s ball wasn’t as effective. Novak likes it when it’s warmer because he can get more free points with his serve and because his ball travels faster towards the ball. People have to look at that too – what’s good for Novak, not what’s not good for Rafa. Rafa had the ball in his strike zone, so I don’t think anyone noticed that the night game didn’t suit him. Again, I don’t think the level of the match was super high, but Rafa’s energy was the deciding factor.
You mentioned body language and energy, but from a purely tennis perspective, what were the deciding factors?
I’ve read many comments and analyzes emphasizing Rafa’s attack with a forehand down the line. That’s right, but Novak’s short backhand cross wasn’t as deep and penetrating as it usually is – most of the time the ball landed in the middle of the field or in an ideal spot for Rafa to attack . Once Novak started using his backhand more down the line, the second set momentum changed, and then his cross backhand also got stronger. Rafa used what Novak gave him – he is the king and owner of this court, and he does not allow you to have defaults, you pay for them immediately.
If you look at the semi-final – Zverev was the better player, he probably should have been two sets to love, but by the time that horrible injury happened he hadn’t won the first or second set. Like I said, Rafa’s energy was incredible, and it was like Novak didn’t believe it enough.
You still haven’t thoroughly analyzed the match with Novak?
No, because he was disappointed and tired. This is neither the time nor the place to talk in depth about the match immediately after it is over. I sympathize with Novak, he is the one who plays and fights, so he feels the worst, and I am very sad for him because I thought he could have won this match.
Djokovic had many disappointments in Paris, to bounce back right away and win Wimbledon. Do you think he will recover quickly?
Of course he can, and he doesn’t really have a choice, if we’re being honest. He’s the biggest favorite at Wimbledon, just like Rafa was here. Novak must now rest well and prepare physically and mentally for Wimbledon. I’m sure he can do it and I think he will win Wimbledon, I have a good feeling about that. He has to focus on the grass now.
Do you already know the program? Will Novak play tournaments before Wimbledon?
Probably not. We’ll see, but now the main thing for him is to recover mentally. Like I’ve said in the past, Novak is a genius with a mindset unlike most of us. Even though he needs less time than most to come back and figure out some things, he still has to. He has overcome tough defeats in the past and I am quite sure he will be ready for Wimbledon.