We don’t know – we may never know – what’s going on with Novak Djokovic.
But something is.
After the announcement by mentor Andre Agassi during the Miami Open that his association with the longtime former No. 1 had ended, comes the news Wednesday that new coach Radek Stepanek also is gone.
The announcement came via a statement on Djokovic’s website and social media. It’s cryptic, unusually poorly written, in the third person, and by someone else. And it reveals little.
“After Miami Novak Djokovic and his tennis coach Radek Stepanek decided to end their cooperation.
The private relationship with Stepanek was and will remain great, and Novak has enjoyed working with him and learning from him.
He remains grateful and appreciative of all the support he has received from Radek during the last period.
Novak remains focused and eager to come back stronger and more resilient from long injury break that has affected his confidence and game.
He is continuously and passionately looking for new and different ways to regain winning form.
Djokovic will upon his short holiday with a family start his preparations for the clay season and upcoming tournaments.
The cooperation between Novak and Andre Agassi has also ended.”
When Stepanek was a no-show in Miami, the word was that the Czech was kept at home by a personal matter. It was presumed to be the impending birth of his first child.
It turned out to be significantly more than that.
So through the brief North American “Sunshine Swing”, Djokovic has lost both of the coaches he took on in 2017 with such positive anticipation, after he sacked his entire longtime support team.
A fun, original announcement
The news last November that Djokovic would begin working with Stepanek was announced, playfully, on Instagram Live.
“Radek is one of my very close friends on the tour. And I was always impressed with his level of determination, passion and love for the sport. The fact that he just recently retired at the age of 37 speaks volumes of his love for the game. He has lot of experience and knowledge, and he has played on a high level for many years. I am excited to join our forces together and cannot wait to compete again having a new team to back me up,” Djokovic said on his website.
“On Andre’s suggestion I pursued Radek. Therefore I am sure the two of them will work well together. The new season is about to start and there is a long way to go back to where I left off. We are aware that I need to go step by step, not hurrying anything. I feel much better now, and I can’t wait to play matches again.”
(Right there, you can see the quality and tone of what generally comes from Djokovic in his public statements – in harsh contrast to today’s announcement).
A short, terse ending
The end of the brief Agassi-Stepanek era came in three dispassionate sentences.
The neutral words reveal little about whose decision it was.
Some variation of the words “by mutual agreement” is nearly always used when players and coaches split. It was used for Djokovic’s two previous coaching announcements over the last 18 months. But the words are conspicuously not used here.
The beginning of the relationship with Agassi, last spring in Paris, also was filled with promise. There was great respect, and even a little awe that the American tennis legend was willing to come on board.
The confirmation that the relationship with Agassi is history came five days after the American’s comments were broadcast on ESPN. And it was limited to a single, brief sentence at the very end.
18 months, four coaching splits
In Dec. 2016, Djokovic split with Boris Becker, who was alongside the Serb during the most prolific period of his career.
“After three very successful years, Boris Becker and I have jointly decided to end our cooperation,” Djokovic said at the time.
Two weeks after last year’s Monte Carlo tournament, in early May 2017, Djokovic divested himself of the entire team that had been with him for years. Coach Marian Vajda (who had been with him since 2006), fitness coach Gebhard (Phil) Gritsch and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic – all gone.
Djokovic called the move “shock therapy”, as he looked for the spark to get back on track through a tough period affected by an ongoing elbow injury.
Again, the words “mutually agreed” were used. And Vajda even supplied a statement for the “we’re still all one big, happy family” announcement on Djokovic’s website.
“I will be on the tour alone for a while with the support of my family and management,” Djokovic said at the time.
Just a couple of weeks later, Agassi was on his way to Paris to join the team.
Wednesday’s statement indicates Djokovic will take a short holiday (it appears he’s already on it) and then begin preparing for the clay-court season.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Monte Carlo time, Djokovic remains entered in the Monte Carlo Masters, although he doesn’t refer to it specifically. It begins a week from Monday.
He also is entered in doubles with countryman Filip Krajinovic.