Adding Eastbourne to Djokovic’s schedule turned out to be the perfect decision as the Serb and former World No.1 Novak Djokovic took the title in a straight sets victory against the No.2 seed Gael Monfils.
Djokovic said: “It was a great week. Obviously it feels right to, looking back on the decision-making process and whether or not I should come here, now it feels like it was a good decision.”
“But also, a few days ago it felt right, because I had a lot of time spent on the court, some good match play. But most of all, I felt very welcomed here by the people. On and off the court I was greeted. I was respected. And so, for me, it was just a phenomenal experience that I will definitely take with me to Wimbledon.”
It was the 14th victory in a row for Djokovic over the Frenchman, which suggests he loves a lot of things about Monfils’ game and brings his best tennis to the match court when they play. The key for Djokovic, as he has said in the buildup to Wimbledon, was to thrive off his return game and to not only make his opponents play on that particular shot, but also to return with no mercy, which enables him to start the rally as the aggressor. Monfils likes to spend a lot of the rallies deep behind the baseline, but he also can be dangerous when he chooses to step inside the court and attack with his forehand.
Djokovic went the whole match without getting broken, which will please him and his game management in the final match in the stretch towards Wimbledon will give him the confidence he didn’t have beforehand. In a 6-3, 6-4 win he imposed his return game on Monfils while ensuring that he remained solid on serve, which isn’t always the case with Djokovic. That will delight him as it now feels like he saved his better performance for the last match of the week in Eastbourne.
Djokovic’s level and game is in a much better place than it was before his arrival at the “Sunshine Coast” in Eastbourne and he revealed how new coach Andre Agassi was delighted with the way things are working and the progress that the Serb has made this week: “Pretty good (smiling). Pretty good. He was mentioning, you know, what I also felt, that he has noticed that my game has kind of raised the level and quality of tennis, is going in the right direction every match, and the competitive spirit and fighting spirit was there.
It was revealed this week that Mario Ancic, a former World No.7 player and Wimbledon semi-finalist, would be joining Djokovic’s team and the new Eastbourne champion talked more about that decision in press following his win over Monfils: “Well, I was saying before that Andre cannot be committed full time. I mean, he’s someone that has a busy life, has family. He’s probably going to come on the biggest tournaments, and whenever he has free time in the schedule.”
He also explained about the relationship he still has with Ancic to this date: “We always had that respect, mutual respect and appreciation for one another. We have talked, obviously with Andre first, and we have made a conclusion that we need someone, you know, next to Andre that is going to be maybe more frequently with me and more often on the small tournaments.”
“You know Mario was the perfect guy. At the moment he was definitely on the top of my list. And Andre agrees, as well. But, you know, we don’t have, Mario and I, any long-term commitment, as well. I think that we talked about kind of between the lines is just to be now in Wimbledon and, you know, maybe if we decide to continue, to maybe spend a few more weeks till the end of the season and see where we take it from there.”
Often the mental aspect for the top competitors in our sport gets overlooked. Many say that players like Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal don’t necessarily need coaching or need that whisper in their ear. But that’s untrue. Tennis can be a brutally lonely sport and that is even more so at the top of the game. Just look at the turnaround in Stan Wawrinka’s career because of the wisdom, support and expertise of Magnus Norman, he has completely transformed Wawrinka’s life.
The arrival of Ancic and the knowledge of Agassi will give Djokovic two different voices but two valuable voices that can give Djokovic that edge that he has missed for the best part of twelve months. Djokovic may not go all the way at Wimbledon this year, but he is laying the foundations and building a team around him that suggests he really is ready and willing to revive the career of one of the very best.