Exclusive to Ivanisevic: I can’t sleep right now, but Novak will be ready for Wimbledon

It’s been four days since Novak Djokovic lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals of Roland Garros, but the dust hasn’t settled yet.

Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic is still in the legends tournament – and speaking to the Tennis Majors there, he can’t wrap his head around some of the things he saw in the match with Nadal, but he is very optimistic looking forward to the turf season and Wimbledon.

“I have to be very honest at first – I’m a mess and can’t sleep,” he said. I can’t say I’m disappointed, but sad. It wasn’t a perfect match from either side. Rafa didn’t play an amazing match, but body language decided, from the first point to the last: Rafa’s body language and Novak’s body language.”

There is no need for a follow-up question; One can see how deeply Ivanisevic cared for Djokovic.

“I warned him, I even told you guys (journalists) that the start of the match could be decisive, but again, a bad start … And then, after turning in the second set, it is incomprehensible how he played the third set. It was like he lacked energy and like he didn’t believe enough that he could win. You can’t allow yourself that against Rafa, because that’s his heroism.”

How do you feel was the reason for Djokovic’s body language, because that’s something that even regular tennis fans have noticed?

Yes, everyone noticed. I don’t know, we haven’t talked yet. That’s why I’m so upset about this match, I can’t sleep. What would have happened if he won the fourth set, no one knows, but it’s just a ‘what if’. He had two fixed points: the first was an easy backhand with an involuntary foul, and in the second he approached the net with the ball in the middle of the field, and Rafa passed him. Maybe it was different, maybe it wouldn’t be, but I still don’t understand body language and lack of energy. Novak had a lot of ups and downs, while Rafa was consistent and deserved to win that match.

Before the match, you told us you were glad 80 per cent of the crowd would draw Nadal because Novak has someone to be mad at, but this time seems to have affected him more than in the past. do you agree?

I mean, we knew it was going to be this way. Before the match, I said 80 percent out of respect, but in reality it was 99.9 percent of the fans supporting Rafa. The only thing I don’t like and the really unfair thing is that the fans screamed for Djokovic when he entered the court. I mean, he’s the number one player in the world and he’s won 20 Grand Slam titles. There is no reason to do such a thing – whether you like it or not, you should respect it. After that, cheer up Rafa, of course we knew it would be that way. I don’t know if Novak was upset about it or not – he’s learned how to deal with it and that can’t be an excuse, in my opinion.

I just want to say one more thing that I didn’t want to talk about before the match. It is complete and utter nonsense that for Novak it would have been better to play the night game. Going back two years, Nadal beat Roland Garros in October when the temperature was ten degrees. People were saying Novak was the evening’s favourite, but there was no basis for that, even I think the night match would suit Rafa.

Why do you think so?

Because Novak needs to focus on himself. It was like, “Oh, the Rafa ball won’t bounce (high)”, but Novak’s ball wasn’t effective either. Novak likes him when it’s warmer, because he can get more free points with his serve and because his ball goes to the ball faster. People need to look at that too – what is good for Novak, not what is not good for Rafa. Rafa had the ball in the hitting zone, so I don’t think it was noticeable that the night game wasn’t right for him. Again, I don’t think the level of the match was too high, but Rafa’s energy was the deciding factor.

You mentioned body language and energy, but from a purely tennis standpoint, what are the critical factors?

I have read many comments and analyzes confirming Rafa’s attack with a forehand strike down the line. That’s right, but Novak’s backhand cross kick wasn’t as deep and penetrating as it usually is – all too often, the ball landed mid-court or perfectly positioned for Rafa to attack. Once Novak started using the backhand down the line more, the momentum changed in the second set, and then the backhand got stronger as well. Rafa used what Novak gave him – he is the king and owner of this court, he does not allow you to make slips, you pay for them on the spot.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic embrace at the end of the quarter-final match (Amnesty International / Reuters / Panoramic)

If you look at the semi-finals – Zverev was the best player, he probably should have had two sets to love, but by the time that terrible injury happened, he didn’t win the first or second set. Like I said, Rafa’s energy was amazing, and it was as if Novak didn’t have enough faith.

You still haven’t analyzed the match in depth with Novak?

No, because he was frustrated and tired. It is neither the time nor the place to talk about the match in detail once it is over. I sympathize with Novak, he’s the one who plays and fights, so he feels the worst, and I’m so sad for him because I thought he could have won that match.

Djokovic had many disappointments in Paris, only to immediately turn back and win Wimbledon. Do you think he will recover quickly?

Of course he can, and he doesn’t have a lot of options, if we’re being honest. He’s the top candidate at Wimbledon, as was Rafa here. Novak now needs to rest and prepare both physically and mentally for Wimbledon. I’m sure he can do it and I think he will win Wimbledon, and I have a good feeling about that. He needs to focus on the lawn now.

Do you know the schedule yet? Will Novak play any tournaments before Wimbledon?

Most likely not. We’ll see, but the main thing now for him is to recover mentally. Like I said in the past, Novak is a genius with a different mindset than most of us. Although he needs less time than most of the time to go back and figure out a few things, he still needs to do it. He’s had heavy losses in the past and I’m pretty sure he’ll be ready for Wimbledon.