Novak Djokovic sent a warm praise for Rafael Nadal: "He's an incredible athlete"

The Serbian champion talked about many topics during the media day of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia: from the battles with Rafa to the changes in his team

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Novak Djokovic sent a warm praise for Rafael Nadal: "He's an incredible athlete"
© Mike Hewitt / Staff Getty Images Sport

He is - together with Rafael Nadal - the most anticipated tennis player in Rome and the one who is - net of what was the start of 2024 - the favorite for the final victory. During the media day of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, the Serbian champion Novak Djokovic analyzed the focal period of the season, reiterating how his goal is to arrive competitively at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

"Madrid wasn't part of my program. The plan was to come directly here to Rome. Have I worked on my physical fitness in recent months? Yes. I've had plenty of time to rest and train. I arrived here two days ago to try out the Central Court, obviously I'm training with the best players. Training with them is different: you play training sets and see where you are from a playing point of view. I think I'm on track to peak at the Roland Garros." explained Nole.

Djokovic also tried to describe the sensations he feels when he faces Rafael Nadal in Paris.

"Facing Nadal at Roland Garros is probably one of the biggest challenges of the Tour. We know the records he set there. I think I faced him on that pitch more than any other player. The court is bigger, there is more space. This affects the sensations a player experiences on the court. There are times when he doesn't make many mistakes and seems to be impenetrable. It's like a wall. It really is a huge challenge. He is an incredible athlete. The tenacity and intensity that he brings to the court, especially at the Roland Garros, is something we have rarely seen in the history of the sport," he analyzed.

Djokovic is trying to increase the workload day by day to reach Paris in the best possible conditions. The Serbian champion trained in Rome with Holger Rune and Grigor Dimitrov with the aim of putting important minutes into his legs and offering himself the opportunity to compete with two tennis players like them.

"I hope that here in Rome I will be able to play better than I did in Monte Carlo. The desire is always to go far. We'll see how things go," he said.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Mike Hewitt / Staff Getty Images Sport
 

Nole also talked about the numerous changes made to his team, which no longer includes Goran Ivanisevic, Marco Panichi and Edoardo Artaldi. The Serbian champion entered into the changes he has made in recent weeks in his team, starting with the separation with Goran Ivanisevic.

"I'm working with a fitness coach Gebhard Phil-Gritsch, who has already been part of my team for many years, so it didn't take me long to adapt to his program. We know each other really well and I feel like we are in sync right from the start in terms of what we want to do, how we want to train on and off the court. Even with Nenad Zimonjic, obviously. I'm happy with the way the last 10-14 days have gone with a view to the future, particularly the Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Olympic Games.

Having a quality team around you is important. Being able to count on people who understand your psychology and know how to approach you emotionally when you need help or space. Of course it's different for me than the younger guys. I didn't have my real team until I was 18 or so. I also grew up in Serbia, which was going through a lot of difficult times at that time. Economically it was almost impossible for us. I probably dealt with different circumstances than others. Growing up with a Federation like the Italian, French or American behind you makes your life easier. At the same time, life shouldn't always be easy. You also have to learn to overcome difficulties," he added.

Djokovic's message to Panichi

After the separation with Goran Ivanisevic, Novak Djokovic also announced the end of the collaboration with Marco Panichi, an Italian athletic trainer who joined the Serbian champion's staff in 2019.

On Instagram, the Serbian champion shared a fantastic message of thanks to his now former athletic trainer.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic© Mike Hewitt / Staff Getty Images Sport
 

"Great Marco, what amazing years of collaboration we've had. We reached the summit, won titles, broken records. But most of all, I have enjoyed our most ordinary days of training in and out of the gym. Endless hours of carciofini and laughs that made me feel super motivated to prepare for success. Grazie Romanista (as Goran calls you) for all the energy, effort and time you invested in making me the best possible player and person I can be will see you soon in Rome!" wrote Nole

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