All jokes aside, the 26-year-old Canadian has added another coach to his advisory board for the hard-court season.
Dusan Vemic, the 41-year-old Croatian-born Serb who has been part of Novak Djokovic’s coaching team on several occasions, has joined Team Raonic for the summer.
Mark Knowles, the retired doubles specialist who began working with Raonic during the grass-court season, also will be back. And main coach Richard Piatti will be in Cincinnati and at the US Open, Raonic told Tennis.Life.
Vemic, though, is flying solo this week at the Citi Open.
Vemic was a top-150 singles player with a big serve. But his best results came in doubles. He reached his career high of No. 31 in 2009.
For a brief time after he retired, Vemic and Petar Popovic worked together with Andrea Petkovic of Germany. It was during that period that the German reached the top 10.
He worked with Djokovic and now-former coach Marian Vajda during many of the Grand Slam events from 2011 to 2013. He last was on hand for the Miami Open last year. Vemic also is a coach with the Serbian Davis Cup team and was the coach of the Serbian Olympic men’s team in Rio last year.
Vemic coached the legendary Bryan brothers for the last part of 2016. As of Wimbledon, he still was coaching them. The Serb’s various biographies and online resumés still state that he is the coach of the Bryan brothers.
The Bryans won the Atlanta ATP event last week, and are in Washington this week for the Citi Open. But Vemic is with Raonic.
We will investigate.
Vemic Rogers Cup memories
The standout tennis.life memory of Vemic came at the Rogers Cup back in 2009.
Rafael Nadal wanted to play doubles. But for whatever reason, he couldn’t hook up with a partner. So he ended up playing with his associate coach Francisco Roig.
Roig was 41 at the time, and retired a decade.
Their opponents? Djokovic and Vemic, who was near his career-high ranking in doubles at the time. Nadal and Roig won, 7-5, 6-4. It had to be a little bit embarrassing!
Pegula worked her way back up on the minor-league circuit and after receiving a wild card into the qualifying at the 2015 US Open, not only made it through but defeated Alison Van Uytvanck in the first round. She lost to Dominika Cibulkova, 6-3 in the third set, in the second round.
She received a wild card into the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. a year ago and made that pay off as well. Pegula upset both Christina McHale and No. 1 seed Samantha Stosur before bowing out in the semifinals.
Later last summer, she qualified for the US Open again.
Pegula has played only one match since last October, back in January in Orlando. She had a leg injury in the last part of 2016. And then she had to have hip surgery in January.
Pegula was coached for several years by former Maria Sharapova coach Michael Joyce. He stood by for a long time through the various physical woes. But eventually Joyce had an offer he couldn’t refuse.
He is now working with former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka as she returns to the tour after maternity leave.
Pegula’s plan is return to action either at an ITF $25,000 tournament in Landisville, PA the second week of August or the $100,000 event in Vancouver, Canada the week after that.
Her ranking currently sits at No. 236. But she will drop more than 125 spots next Monday as the semifinal points from last year’s effort in D.C. drop off the computer. Pegula can use a injury-protected ranking of approximately No. 185.
Levine has been involved in a few different ventures. He was helping out Milos Raonic on the coaching side in Miami in March. He also does some work for Nike, and he will be in Montreal next month doing television commentary for the Rogers Cup, a Masters 1000 tournament.
Ferrero already is in Saddlebrook, Florida with Zverev, braving the heat and humidity to prepare for the hard-court swing. That will include Masters 1000 tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati after the D.C. event, and will culminate at the US Open.
Ferrero thrilled with the challenge
(Random fact: Zverev’s older brother Mischa has a 3-1 record against Ferrero).
“Zverev is a different player. He has the makings of a champion,” Ferrero said in a statement through his academy, Equelite. “It’s a challenge that fills me with enthusiasm and desire to do my best.”
The 20-year-old, currently ranked No. 11, originally had been the second-highest ranked player behind Dominic Thiem at the D.C. tournament. But a trio of last-minute wild cards has changed the landscape.
In addition to those two, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov will be in the draw.
The five will be ranked No. 7 through No. 11. And Zverev will end up the No. 5 seed in the tournament. For a 500-level tournament, the trophy suddenly got a lot more challenging.
Add him to the super-coach ranks
Ferrero works with players through his academy. But he has not been active out on the coaching circuit since his retirement in 2012.
Despite his resumé, he seems to get overlooked among all the Spanish champions. There could well be internal, political reasons for that. Or perhaps Ferrero just goes about his business quietly, and he’s not willing to play the game.
When Carlos Moyá stepped down as Spanish Davis Cup captain in 2014, Ferrero seemed the front-runner to replace him.
Instead, the Spanish federation made an ill-advised decision to name former player Gala León Garcia. Garcia had few relationships with anyone on the Davis Cup team. And she didn’t even have all that lustrous a resumé as a player on the WTA Tour. But after that experiment went sour, they didn’t choose Ferrero. They nominated Conchita Martinez.
Ferrero was an integral part of Spain’s 2009 Davis Cup squad. He won the fifth and deciding rubber against Germany in the quarterfinals. But when Rafael Nadal returned to play in the final, Ferrero was not even selected to the squad. Even worse, he wasn’t included in the presentation ceremony after Spain won its second consecutive Davis Cup.
WIMBLEDON – If you saw the first few games of Novak Djokovic’s third-round match against Ernests Gulbis, you saw some long-lost Djokovic fire.
The former Wimbledon champion overcame an early surge by the former top-10 Latvian to win 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (2) and move into the second week.
Djokovic’s task on Manic Monday should prove less dangerous.
Rather than the danger of the shotmaking Frenchman Gaël Monfils, Djokovic instead has to get through Monfils’s unseeded countryman Adrian Mannarino.
If he does, he’ll reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
On paper, he would take that in a heartbeat.
Good grass fun for Mannarino
That’s not to take anything away from Mannarino, a tricky lefty who did yeoman’s work to get this far.
The 29-year-old defeated Borna Coric and Fernando Verdasco, to name two, before losing to Yuichi Sugita of Japan in the final of Antalya, a new grass-court event in Turkey.
He then had to find a way to get to London in a hurry. He took an overnight flight, landing in the early morning with little time to adjust. He caught a break with an injured Feliciano Lopez in the first round, but still played nearly four sets. Then he ran into Sugita again. That took five sets, and he was down two sets to one.
Monfils? Also five sets.
Djokovic and Mannarino played in the second round here a year ago, with the Serb winning in three reasonably competitive sets.
“So far it’s fantastic. I mean, not just this tournament, but also in Paris. We spent a lot of quality time together on and off the court. It’s a bit different now in Wimbledon because both Mario and Andre are staying with me as far as I go in the tournament, where Andre in Paris had to leave earlier. I’m glad to have them both. I think they contribute in their own way to my game. But most of all, there is great chemistry, great synergy, great understanding, respect for each other,” Djokovic said.
‘Mario has been my friend for very long time. I feel very relaxed next to him. And Andre, as well, is someone that has a personality that is very, very friendly, very kind, and at the same time very committed and professional. It didn’t take us too much to really connect. Everything so far is working great.”
The trio looked as though they’d all been friends for years, during one of Djokovic’s first practices here as the tournament began.
Nothing signed, nothing committed
The arrangements are still, to be sure, being made on the fly. Djokovic’s two advisors are not career coaches thrilled to be working with a former No. 1 and12-time Grand Slam titlist at the exclusion of everything else.
“We don’t have anything formal. We don’t have any contracts. And we don’t have any long-term agreements. First of all, I spoke to Andre. Andre absolutely agreed with Mario being that second person who might potentially be spending a little bit more time with me on the road,” Djokovic said.
Then, he contacted Ancic.
“We had a friendly talk. He was a bit surprised. He wasn’t expecting that. But he was already prescheduled to be in London. I asked him if he would like to spend a time with Andre and I during Wimbledon, while you’re there, if you have time. He was, anyway, planning to be a part … of the Legends tournament doubles,” Djokovic added. “So he accepted. That’s all we have for the moment. There is no really long-term agreements or planning, what’s going to happen. Obviously he’s got his commitments with his companies.”
Djokovic said there was a possibility Ancic might be able to make one or two of the Masters 1000 events in the summer, leading up to the US Open.
But all that will wait until this Wimbledon run is done.
WIMBLEDON – Commentator, entrepreneur, student, manager and former ATP Tour player Justin Gimelstob coached countryman and friend John Isner for over a year, through 2015 and into early 2016.
The coaching relationship ended when Gimelstob, who had split with his wife, prioritized spending time with young son Brandon. As it was, he already was juggling a host of other duties and projects out of his Los Angeles base.
But there was Gimelstob on the practice courts at Aorangi Park Saturday with … Isner.
Gimelstob was humorously cryptic in response to an e-mail from tennis.life asking what was up.
“Just trying to help a friend play his best tennis,” he wrote.
Seeded No. 23, Isner opens up his Wimbledon Monday against fellow American Taylor Fritz, who qualified this week at Roehampton.
WIMBLEDON – It was not the news most had been waiting for.
But Novak Djokovic made another coaching move official Saturday.
Former top-10 player Mario Ancic, forced into early retirement by back issues and several bouts with mononucleosis, will be with the former No. 1 at Wimbledon – and beyond.
“He was to be in London for his own commitments, so he’s going to use the opportunity to be with me. Whether we’re going to build from there a long-term relationship or not, we’ll see,” Djokovic said, via the ATP Tour website.
The two-time Wimbledon champion will be doing his media availability Sunday at Wimbledon. He took the Eastbourne tournament title Saturday with a 6-3 6-4 win over Gaël Monfils.
Djokovic entered Eastbourne as a wild card after a premature exit at the French Open and some reflection back in Belgrade about the best, next move.
The 30-year-old Serb hadn’t played any Wimbledon grass-court tuneup event since 2010, never mind the week right before the big event. He will play his first-round match Tuesday against lefty Martin Klizan of Slovakia.
Ancic, a Croat who is just three years older than Djokovic, has made his forced retirement work for him. He moved on to a career in investment banking in New York City after earning a law degree from Columbia University four years ago.
Of him, Djokovic said this:
“He’s one of the closest friends I’ve ever had on the tour. He was always a very nice guy, very smart … We always had that mutual respect and appreciation for one another.”
Agassi has no interesting in, or time for, a full-time coaching gig. He also doesn’t need the money; he said in Paris that he was there on his own dime.
That relationship is still in an improvisational stage, with Agassi “probably” going to come to the biggest tournaments and intending to help “whenever he has free time in the schedule.”
The Serb certainly is working very hard to fast-forward that fledgling relationship into a mentor – mentee dynamic that can work for him.
Djokovic said he and Agassi were looking for someone who would be around more often, smaller events and “maybe some practice weeks.”
If it all sounds rather haphazard, it’s clear Djokovic is choosing to go without a traditional full-time coach until –if – he finds the right fit.
And for someone with his accomplishments, that’s not an easy fit to find.
“I have certain criteria, I would say, for the profile of a person that is going to be next to me. It’s not just anyone who was on the tour. Everyone has their own preferences. I’m looking to have someone that fits into the values that I stand for and not just in sport but in life in general. Andre and Mario are there for a reason, and I’m very grateful to have them,” he said.
It’s about quality people
Djokovic is not at a stage of career where he needs some sort of technically-focused coach who is going to make radical changes in his game.
Clearly his main coaching bucket-list item is to have people around him with tennis IQs that he wants to be around. He wants people he feels he can learn from not just in tennis, but in life.
If it all seems a little existential, it clearly reflects the stage of life and mindset Djokovic currently is in.
Whether the loose coaching co-op will help him get back to his previous impressive level on the tennis end is something that can only be judged after a certain period of time.
Ancic has been an occasional presence around the game since he was forced to retire in 2011. That’s especially true during US Open time when the tennis is in his town.
He even warmed up Djokovic before the 2015 men’s singles final.
Ancic, the player
For those who don’t remember the Croat when he played, he was GOOD.
Really, really good.
His big moment came very early in his career.
When he was just 18, Ancic upset 20-year-old Roger Federer in the first round of Wimbledon. It was his very first Wimbledon. He was ranked No. 154 then; Federer was No. 9.
Federer hasn’t been upset in the first round of a major since.
None other than former Djokovic coach Boris Becker called Ancic “the future of tennis.”
He was (and is) 6-foot-5 with plenty of power and a great willingness to be an all-court player. When he talked, with his deep voice and facial mannerisms, he looked and sounded just like his older Davis Cup teammate Goran Ivanisevic.
Ancic reached the Wimbledon semis in 2004. He reached the quarterfinals twice, both times losing to Federer.
His career high singles ranking was No. 7. But Ancic likely hadn’t even yet reached his peak when he was forced to retire.
Vandeweghe’s next move is an intriguing one: she has hired 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, an arrangement we’re told is scheduled to last at least through the US Open.
Cash looks set up to be the John McEnroe of this year’s Wimbledon: a former champion, a television pundit, someone the British tennis media will be all over and – of course – will get outsized credit if Vandeweghe does anything of note at the Championships.
We’re told that Cash had been in negotiations with Milos Raonic for the grass-court swing. But that didn’t pan out. Instead, we’re told Raonic has added Mark Knowles. That hasn’t yet been confirmed by Raonic, though.
Knowles, 45, reached the top 100 in singles but is best known for his doubles exploits. He won 55 career titles; interestingly, he never won Wimbledon although he did win the other three majors. He also won the Queen’s Club title twice with Canadian Daniel Nestor.
Annacone, who has coached both Roger Federer and Pete Sampras, was a relentless serve-volleyer-chip-charger during a career that saw him get to No. 12 in singles and No. 3 in doubles. He did win the Australian Open doubles back in 1985, when it was on grass.
A year ago, Wawrinka added Krajicek during the grass season, for similar reasons. It is the only Slam the Swiss has yet to win.
He was a quarter-finalist in 2014 and 2015, but lost in the second round to Juan Martin del Potro last year in a tough draw for both.
As well, the clay-court season brought Jelena Ostapenko together with Spanish player Anabel Medina Garrigues.
Medina Garrigues, 34, has been as high as No. 16 in singles and No. 3 in doubles. She hasn’t played since last August, but says she may not be done yet. She also is tournament director of an ITF event in Spain.
Not that Medina Garrigues could have had a major effect in such a short time. But the fact that her 20-year-old charge went and won the French Open on Saturday will give her coaching credibility a major boost.
Mom as coach, more or less
The interesting fact about that was that, over the off-season, Ostapenko was out looking for a full-time coach. Her problem – as is the case for many of the women on the WTA Tour, especially those whose parents are heavily involved in their careers – is that we’re told she didn’t want to pay the going rate for a quality coach.
Even Medina Garrigues is supposed to be a temporary arrangement. Can’t argue the results, though.
Here are some of the new pairings.
Helena Sukova and Katerina Siniakova.
This one isn’t new, but I don’t recall seeing Sukova around all that much at the Slams.
Elina Svitolina and Frenchman Thierry Ascione (Nicolas Mahut, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) have been together since the beginning of the season. Svitolina also is listed as working with Gabriel Urpi.
Nick Kyrgios added Frenchman Sébastian Grosjean recently, after working with him a bit in Florida. Grosjean is based there, and so is Kyrgios’ girlfriend Ajla Tomljanlovic. No word on whether this one will continue.
American Jan-Michael Gambill is working with young countryman Jared Donaldson. Donaldson had been working with Phil and Taylor Dent, but added Gambill this year.
Kazahstan’s Yulia Putintseva added Frenchman Cyril Saulnier on a trial during the clay-court season. Saulnier was an associate coach for Genie Bouchard in 2016.
Ana Konjuh has been working with Zeljko Krajan, a fellow Croat, since February. Krajan has worked with Dinara Safina (when she became No. 1), Dominika Cibulkova and Borna Coric.
Russian veteran Elena Vesnina reconnected with former top-10 Russian Andrei Chesnokov at Roland Garros.
It seems to be an annual thing with them; here they are, same place – same court, actually, back in 2010.
It’s only June. No doubt there will be plenty more before the season is done and dusted.
ROLAND GARROS – In the wake of a good – but not great – French Open, world No. 6 Milos Raonic is making yet another coaching change.
Raonic, whose main coach for the last several years has been Riccardo Piatti, announced on Twitter Thursday night that he has parted ways with his second coach, 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek.
Tennis.Life has learned the Canadian has had discussions/negotiations with at least one other candidate, 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash. But Krajicek’s successor reportedly will be longtime doubles star and current Tennis Channel analyst Mark Knowles.
(Update: Raonic finally officially announced this on June 13 – so faithful Tennis.Life readers had the scoop way ahead of time!
It seems all of this is all in the family. Raonic is managed at CAA by Amit Naor. Who also manages Coco Vandeweghe, who ended up with Cash as a new coach. Naor also manages the broadcast side of Knowles’ career. Tennis is all one big circle of life.)
Krajicek and Raonic began working together at the Australian Open this year. But because of a lingering hamstring injury, Raonic played very little tennis from the Australian Open through to the beginning of May in Istanbul.
My coach, Richard Krajicek, and I have decided to part ways. This decision has been a mutual one… (1/2)
Raonic has put out a lot of Tweets of this type in recent years: mutual decision … remain good friends … parted ways … wish him luck.
Raonic has made a lot of coaching moves over the last few years – especially by the standards of top-10 players.
The Canadian joined forces with Ivan Ljubicic just before Wimbledon in 2013. A few months later Ljubicic’s own longtime coach Piatti (who had been coaching Frenchman Richard Gasquet) joined the team.
It seemed like quite a seamless operation. Ljubicic was the quarterback overseeing the entire operation. Everything ran through him; he ensured the coaching message was consistent and that the team ran like a well-oiled machine.
By the Australian Open a month later, the new “super coach” was in place as former No. 1 Carlos Moyá signed on.
Raonic reached the semi-finals in Oz and, but for an adductor injury, might well have made the final – or even won it. He was playing that well. Raonic had defeated Roger Federer in Brisbane a few weeks prior and his aggressive, net-rushing game was paying dividends. He was in a commanding position over Andy Murray when the injury made it too difficult to run.
The McEnroe era
A few months later, word leaked out that Raonic would begin working with John McEnroe. The association was to be announced once Raonic was out of the French Open, in time for the grass-court season. But McEnroe, who was in Paris, spilled the beans.
So … when Wimbledon rolled around, Raonic technically had three coaches on his payroll: Piatti (who was not there), McEnroe and Moyá.
The two former No. 1s got in good workouts hitting against each other, much to Raonic’s amusement. And McEnroe got plenty of publicity (and credit) in London as Raonic reached the singles final.
McEnroe and Raonic remain friendly. McEnroe is a New Yorker and Raonic a part-time New Yorker; they have many friends in common.
But any future collaborative efforts between the two … didn’t happen. There was criticism during Wimbledon of McEnroe’s perceived conflicts of interest as he was both commentating for television and coaching Raonic.
And in the end, the American decided to stay with his bigger source of revenue – although, from what we understand, his weekly rate for working with Raonic was sky-high.
Raonic had a tough US Open, losing in the second round to Ryan Harrison and suffering cramping that prevented him from taking part in the Davis Cup two weeks later.
Successful Moyá era ends
By the end of 2016, Moyá also was on the road out of Milosville. This after a season when Raonic reached his first Grand Slam final, made the ATP Tour Finals and finished the season ranked No. 3 in the world.
Quickly, Moyá was announced as a new coach for longtime friend and fellow Mallorcan Rafael Nadal. So at least when Raonic’s super-coaches leave, they leave to go work with legends.
A few weeks later Krajicek (whom Raonic had approached to work with him during the grass-court season before McEnroe accepted the job) was on board.
The plan was that the Dutchman would do many more weeks on the road than Moyá had. But Raonic’s early-season injuries put a crimp in those plans.
Krajicek was not scheduled to be in Paris for the French Open, with Piatti on hand. But he had planned to spend at least a few days at the event before meeting up with Raonic at Wimbledon.
Asked about that after his loss to Pablo Carreño Busta in the fourth round in Paris, Raonic was vague about Krajicek. Turns out that was a clue.
Keeping the body healthy
In April, right after Miami, Raonic parted ways with longtime strength and conditioning coach Dalibor Sirola. It was Sirola who announced it.
After nearly four years I made a tough decision to discontinue my future collaboration with Milos Raonic …https://t.co/QgKoXaebbP
Claudio Zimaglia, Raonic’s long-time physiotherapist, is still on board. But there’s a rotating cast of characters in that role, including this blue-jeaned fellow in Paris.
“Obviously the physios have always rotated due to availability, so I’ve always had three guys that I’ve worked with at different times,” Raonic said before the French Open.
On Sirola, he said this: “Just I think he felt he was off the road too much, and we weren’t making progress in terms of trying to stay healthy.”
Raonic has been working with noted physical therapist Charlie Weingroff, who is based in New York and isn’t a tennis specialist. On the plus side, the Canadian has gone through six weeks, with a lot of tournament play, and stayed healthy.
He also appears to have reunited with longtime girlfriend, model Danielle Knudson, after some time apart. She first reappeared in Miami (the paparazzi were dutifully alerted to her presence in fetching beachwear), and was both in Lyon and Paris with Raonic.
The Canadian also seems to have gained back a bit of healthy weight, after a period where he was attempting to get as lean as he could, on a fairly drastic diet, to try to get quicker.
This amount of change within a team is fairly rare for a top player. At 26, Raonic clearly is still searching for the magic formula that will allow him to take that next step.