Federer's ex-coach defends Djokovic from criticism: "It's a psychological problem"

Ivan Ljubicic, former coach of the Swiss Maestro, analyzed the moment he is facing against the Serbian champion

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Federer's ex-coach defends Djokovic from criticism: "It's a psychological problem"
© Clive Brunskill / Staff Getty Images Sport

Criticizing Novak Djokovic for not having won anything or not having played well in the first three months of the year (and at 37 years old!) is ridiculous, considering how much he has achieved in his career and how much he has shown in 2023.

Of course, comparing the dominant player admired last season with the insecure one seen between January and March 2024 is at the same time inversely proportional. The climax came a few days ago as a twist: Nole and his historic coach Goran Ivanisevic unexpectedly and sensationally ended their professional relationship.

Ivan Ljubicic, the former coach of Swiss Maestro Roger Federer, also analyzed the negative moment of the Serbian champion, underlining how Djokovic is suffering psychologically, but has not forgotten how to play tennis.

In an interview granted to the newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Croatian coach and former player also explained how he is convinced that Nole will be able to recover with the climax of the season.

"His is a psychological problem, he certainly hasn't forgotten how to play tennis. Undoubtedly Nole must have the fire inside, otherwise he's missing something. But I'm convinced that as his real goals for the season, the Roland Garros, get closer, Wimbledon and the Olympics, he will bounce back," he told.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Clive Brunskill / Staff Getty Images Sport

Djokovic began preparing for the clay court season in Belgrade and is expected to return to the court at the ATP Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo, an event scheduled for April 7-14. Last year, at the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, Lorenzo Musetti eliminated him from the tournament in the round of 16, winning with a score of 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

It's uncommon to see Novak Djokovic not lift a trophy in the first half of a season. Yet, the Serbian champion started 2024 without winning any titles despite the three tournaments played.

Djokovic opened his year by representing Serbia in the United Cup and his team, with the Belgrade native, was unable to bring the match to the decisive double against Alex de Minaur and surrendered in the quarter-finals against Australia.

In Melbourne, the 36-year-old subsequently lost for the first time in the semi-final, losing in four sets to eventual champion Jannik Sinner. The result that surprised everyone, however, materialized at the ATP Masters 1000 in Indian Wells, where his journey ended in the third round due to the unexpected defeat against Luca Nardi.

But now the question is: who will coach Novak Djokovic?

"I still don't have a clear idea of who the new coach will be, nor if there will be one. I've had coaches since I was a kid, now I try to feel for myself what I need, what I feel most comfortable with at my ease. You will be notified if someone joins the team.

First of all Goran is my friend for life, mine and my family. He is a very dear person to me, the end of our professional collaboration does not mean that our friendship ends. We have reached a point where we have exhausted our cooperation after almost five years.

Together we wrote the history of our sport, we won the Slams, ended seasons as number one in the world, but we also went through trials and tribulations: disqualification at the US Open, deportation from Australia.

I will always remember that he was there for me as a person, as a human being first and foremost, and that he brought the right set of values to our relationship. This type of chemistry was followed by great results. I wish Goran all the best," underlined the Serbian champion in a press conference dedicated to Legend, a documentary about his junior mentor Nikki Pilic.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Clive Brunskill / Staff Getty Images Sport

Only a few days earlier, Nole had made the professional relationship with Ivanisevic official through an Instagram post.

"I remember clearly the moment I invited Goran to be part of my team. It was back in 2018, and Marian and I were looking to innovate and bring some serve magic to our duo. In fact, not only we brought serve, but also lots of laughter, fun, year end no1 rankings, record breaking achievements and 12 more Grand Slams (and a few finals) to the count since then.Did I mention a bit of drama too?

Goran and I decided to stop working together a few days ago. Our on court chemistry had its ups and downs, but our friendship was always rock solid. In fact, I am proud to say (not sure he is) that apart from winning tournaments together, we also had a side battle in Parchisi going on… for many years. And - that tournament never stops for us."

Among the most accredited to become the Serbian's new coaches are, at the moment, two of his coaching forms: Marian Vajda and Boris Becker.

Ivan Ljubicic Swiss Maestro