Tennis - The world no. 12's mental coach defends Novak from criticism
Novak Djokovic changed his whole team in mid-2017 entirely, with the sole exception of Pepe Imaz who has been with him since around 2012.
In a recent interview to El Pais, Imaz recalled one of the most beautiful moments they spent together, in 2016 before the match against Dominic Thiem in Paris. 'I remember that night before the semi-final of the 2016 French Open, which he won, I was with the whole night. After four years of working together, he told me that he was closer to fulfilling his objective and that it was fantastic, but that he was calm and wasn't frustrated or nervous,' Imaz said.
Djokovic ended his 2017 season after retiring from his quarter-final at Wimbledon, against Tomas Berdych, and is set to return to competition in January 2018. According to Imaz, Djokovic needed the break to regroup and refuel himself. 'His body needed a break. He didn't have any mental setback throughout his career. He came to a climax, but he kept trying it but he couldn't achieve more,' said Imaz, who also referred to Djokovic's elbow injury as a divine intervention that came at the right time. 'This injury will help him to take a rest and get refreshed.'
Pepe Imaz finally commented on the criticism around the former world no. 1, whom he called an icon: 'Instead of being looked up to for setting an example, Djokovic is being criticised because he is walking on the path of love. But, these critics have waited for his form to drop to criticise him for what he is doing.'