Novak Djokovic is ‘in pain’ after US Open incident, says former coach

That’s the thought of his friend and former trainer Radek Stepanek, and former world number one Jim Courier.

There wouldn’t have been as many players in recent history as favorites to clinch a major as Djokovic in New York this year, given his dominance – undefeated in 2020 – and the absence of his two biggest rivals. , Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic, however, was dropped on Sunday when he struck a ball that inadvertently hit a linesman in the throat. Frustration took over the 17-time Grand Slam winner after missing three set points in the opener against Pablo Carreno Busta, injuring his left shoulder in a fall and then breaking to drag 5- 6 in a frenzied 10 minute spell.

He then apologized on social media.

READ: Barty won’t defend his Roland Garros title
Novak Djokovic deals with a linesman he hit with the ball.

‘He’s very sad inside’

Stepanek is a big fan of Djokovic but he had no problem with the decision of the tournament officials.

The Czech, who coached Djokovic alongside Hall of Famer Andre Agassi for several months from 2017 to 2018, suspected the Serbian of suffering.

“I know he is very sad in himself and is in pain,” Stepanek, former world No.8 and Davis Cup hero for the Czech Republic, told CNN. “He’s in pain because it wasn’t intentional, and at that point the pain is greater.

“And it’s tough for him because we know how hungry he is to become the player with the most grand slams. I think he thought – everyone thought – this one should be for him, accessible.

“All these circumstances make him very sad for him and at the first moment empty, because I think he himself knew it was wrong that she got hit.”

“Obviously the pressure on him and the criticism he receives over time is hard. He’s trying to do his best. He could be at the end of his career the greatest of all time. . We are all human beings. We have the right to be wrong. ”

When it was pointed out to Stepanek that maybe Djokovic had made some mistakes, he did not dispute.

“We create our own world and our mistakes,” said Stepanek, who has angered an opponent or two in his career but has been one of the most entertaining players of his generation. “We have to accept the result.”

For now, Stepanek has said Djokovic is likely seeking refuge with relatives. They would include his wife, Jelena, and their two young children.

“I think he’ll go back to his family and loved ones to feel in a safe environment,” Stepanek said. “Be with his loved ones. I think one of his greatest strengths is his mental power.

“No matter how sad and empty he is right now – and from what I know it’s very deep because he’s a deep-feeling person and he’s sensitive – he’s tough on him too. – even now. I think the thing that will get him out of this situation will be going back to work. “

READ: ‘He’s gonna be the villain for the rest of his career,’ says McEnroe of Djokovic
Djokovic with his former trainer Radek Stepanek in 2018.

Cathartic return

Djokovic is expected to return to action at the upcoming Italian Open in Rome ahead of his appearance at Roland Garros, which was pushed back from his usual location in late May to September 27 in Paris due to the pandemic.

“He’s going to have a clay court event to focus on that starts in a week’s time and he’ll have to prepare for that, changing the surface from hard to clay,” Courier told CNN.

“It might be cathartic for him to have something so quickly that he can help him put behind this unfortunate incident.

“The bad news for him is that he is no longer at the US Open, but the good news for him is that the French Open is just around the corner and he will have the chance to turn the page and to move on. ”

With 12 titles, Nadal will once again be the big favorite at Roland Garros, but Djokovic should not be ruled out. He is one of only two players to have beaten the Spaniard at Roland Garros, alongside Robin Soderling.

There is a lot at stake in Paris regarding the Grand Slam record books. If Nadal adds to his incredible goal, he would equal Federer atop the men’s list with 20 majors. Djokovic would come within two majors of Federer – who is recovering from knee surgery and will not play again this season – for the first time if he triumphs.

Roland Garros, two years ago, was instrumental in the rebirth of Djokovic after an elbow injury and a decline in motivation. Miffed to come out in the quarter-finals against Marco Cecchinato when he had one chance after another, he went on to win Wimbledon and had pocketed three of the last five Grand Slam tournaments.

“It’s going to be intense for a while with what happened, but I believe when he comes back to the court and has an eye on the eventual trophy, he will focus on what he’s doing and he’ll be strong again. “said Stepanek. .

Winning the fans

Djokovic was already behind Federer and Nadal in fan support ahead of his mistake on Sunday. His matches against the Swiss at Wimbledon and the year-end championships in London are just a few examples.

But Stepanek does not rule out an increase.

“He’s done a lot for tennis,” said the 41-year-old.

“I believe people will like it, others will not like it, everything is individual. Obviously we know Roger and Rafa are more famous, but if he takes over, you don’t know what the future holds. reserve us.

“I have lived it for over 20 years on the tour and you don’t know what tomorrow brings. You never know what can happen.”

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