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In a lengthy interview with Serbian media outlet Sport Klub, Novak Djokovic’s now ex-coach Goran Ivanisevic talks about the reasons for the split. He points to a great deal of weariness after five years of working together.

For the first time since Novak Djokovic announced their separation on March 27, Goran Ivanisevic spoke to Serbian media outlet Sport Klub about the reasons behind the end of his collaboration with the world No.1. The Croatian tennis coach, with whom the Serb won nine Grand Slam tournaments, points above all to a form of weariness after five particularly intense years: “There isn’t really a ‘real’ reason. One of the reasons is rather a feeling of saturation, of fatigue, these five years have really been difficult and intense.”

While there have been titles and records, these five years have also been marked by controversy. “People have forgotten the coronavirus period, that Novak was at one point considered the biggest villain on the planet because of his vaccination status. And then we weren’t allowed to travel to one country, then another…. We were always in doubt as to whether he was going to play or not. And I’m not even talking about Australia and all the mess that went on there.”

Between Djokovic’s disqualification from the 2020 US Open (which was played behind closed doors), his withholding and then expulsion from Australia in 2022, and his travel difficulties due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the coach-trainer duo went through every state. “We reached a certain level of saturation: I got bored with him and he got bored with me. I didn’t feel I could help him anymore. But looking back, we’ve achieved great things for ourselves and for tennis.”

Goran Ivanisevic on Novak Djokovic

In any case, he refutes the idea of any disagreement between the two men, or any annoyance on his part at the words his former player may have directed at his box during tennis matches. “People give the impression that our relationship was complicated, but that’s not true. The way he expresses himself on the court sometimes during matches never bothered me.” He adds: “Novak, when all the cameras are off and he’s more himself, is a good person with a big heart. I’ve always been ready to die for him if I had to.”

As to the timing of this separation, Ivanisevic recalls the Wimbledon defeat to Carlos Alcaraz (in five sets, when Djokovic was aiming for the Grand Slam), which left its mark on him, but it was really during last summer’s US tour that he felt that “the end was near”, as he puts it. In the USA this season, where Novak Djokovic only lined up in Indian Wells for a surprise third-round defeat, the two men talked things over and decided it was the right time to say goodbye. This separation could have taken place at the end of 2023, even Ivanisevic reckons, but the opportunity didn’t really present itself. It happened in Miami, a few months later.

This article was originally written for L’Équipe by Lucile Alard