As if this year in tennis couldn’t get any crazier, along comes the kicker.
Novak Djokovic has dumped his entire team, effective after the Monte Carlo tournament last month.
It couldn’t be more of a surprise than if Djokovic had announced he had gone on a gluten binge the last few weeks.
Coach Marian Vajda, fitness coach Gebhard “Phil” Gritsch, and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic – all gone, Djokovic announced on his website Friday morning.
The official announcement takes the “mutually amicable parting of the ways” concept that always prevails in these matters to an absolutely stratospheric level.
Each now-former member of the team has an extensive quote summarizing how wonderful their experience was and how they will all love each other forever. It’s extraordinary. You usually will see a similar-sounding quote from the firer. That all three firees also chime in is, well, it’s rare.
Here are a few excerpts:
“I am forever grateful to Marian, GG and Miljan for decade of friendship, professionalism and commitment to my career goals. … It was not an easy decision, but we all felt that we need a change. I am very grateful and proud of our relationship and unbreakable bond that we built through years of mutual love, respect and understanding.”
“We were part of many of his incredible achievements, we were living and breathing for his dreams. … We arrived to the point where we all realized we need new energy in the team. … Of course, we will continue consulting each other, seeing each other and hanging out together because after all, we are a family.”
“It was a great privilege to have worked with Novak for exactly eight years to the day. … He is a champion and a warrior and the sky is the limit for him. … It was time for us all to move on professionally, but privately we will remain friends and family and continue sharing all the joys of life with each other.”
“Novak is my best friend and my brother. … Nothing will change between us as our lives are interconnected in so many ways. I will forever be here for him and I look forward to seeing him rise to his full potential again.”
It’s quite a piece of prose – even if every word of it may well be true.
A new phase of a great career
Djokovic said he will embark on a search for a new coach, adding that he already knows the drill, and won’t rush things.
For now, he will fly solo; no doubt we will see brother Marko around a whole lot more. And perhaps Davis Cup captain and good friend Nenad Zimonjic, whose successful doubles career is winding down, will play a role as well.
One good question is whether Djokovic’s friend and mental wellness mentor Pepe “Amor y paz” Imaz, will also take on a greater role. Unlike last season, Imaz has not been very visible publicly lately.
That Djokovic felt he needed “shock therapy” – as he put it – this drastic, speaks volumes about his mindset in recent months.
Brother Marko was, indeed, part of Team Djoko as he arrived in Madrid Friday, greeted by the legendary Manolo Sanchez.
— Mutua Madrid Open (@MutuaMadridOpen) May 5, 2017
He acknowledged that he is in a somewhat different phase of his career now. Perhaps winning the French Open almost a year ago marked the dividing line. He had always been the player rising every year, still with milestones left to achieve, goals to reach. And he had no problem finding the hunger and ambition to achieve those goals.
Now, he’s essentially in career middle age, so perhaps a bit of ennui has set in. That tends to happen to most human beings – even professional athletes.
He’s rich beyond his imagination. He has accomplished just about anything a sane man could ever hope to achieve. And he’s about to turn 30 in less than three weeks.
It’s crossroads time. And now is when the Serb sets the tone for the rest of his career.
“I enjoy this journey, it feels like I am starting something new again and I love this challenge. I am a hunter and my biggest goal is to find the winning spark on the court again”, Djokovic said.