Tipsarevic On Transition To Coaching: 'I Enjoy It So Much'
Now the Serbian, who retired last year, coaches Filip Krajinovic. The 26th seed will play seventh seed David Goffin on Friday in the third round of the US Open. ATPTour.com caught up with Tipsarevic, the founder of the Tipsarevic Tennis Academy, to discuss Krajinovic's success since the return of the ATP Tour, his potential, life in the New York bubble and more.
Filip played quite well to beat Dominic Thiem at the Western & Southern Open and he could have beaten Milos Raonic in that event. Now he’s into the third round of the US Open. How thrilled are you with how he’s returned to play?
We worked a lot. The time after Indian Wells he had basically two weeks off and most of the other time, we were using that to work on things that he needs to improve as a player. Filip used his time really well in the past months without tennis to work a lot and work hard on specific things, which he missed to become an overall player, because I see Filip as an overall player that has everything.
I don’t want to sound cocky in saying I’m not surprised. Obviously he had some really big wins. He’s basically in cruise control in all of the matches [at the US Open]. The Raonic match was terribly unlucky. He should have won that, but he’s in a good way because the volume of work… not only helps him for Cincinnati and the US Open, but the remainder of the year as well.
Filip has seemed to be playing quite aggressively when he’s had his opportunities. Was he always like that or earlier in his career was he more defensive?
Filip was always a very flashy player, a hyper aggressive player. The thing that he was lacking generally, not only in his game but in his life, was actual consistency… He will always go back to his roots, which is aggressive tennis from the baseline. But because he’s I believe a completely different player right now, I think he has the ability to defend as well as attack.
When you say he’s a completely different player, is it adding that defensive element so he has more options?
The big part is fitness. I believe Filip’s fitness right now is on another [level] from where it was a year ago. So when you have the fitness aspect in the bag, you start believing in your defence… a lot of players can defend. But the main question is how long can they defend? How quickly do they get tired and how quickly do they recover once their pulse goes very high? I don’t want to single out a part of his game that I think he improved the most. I think he improved in all aspects and I think there a lot more things that we need to work on.
How nice is it that Filip also got off to a great start to the year, so throughout the season he’s been playing well?
The pandemic was definitely a shame. He started the year really, really well. He decided that he doesn’t want to be one of these guys who is very talented but never really fulfilled their full potential. We have seen a handful of players like that. He’s not getting any younger. He’s 28, which is the perfect age to mature and play big tennis.
It definitely is easier for me as a coach once you have a player who is dreaming of bigger pastures and wants to become better. He has set goals for himself, short-term goals, long-term goals. He believes in his fitness coach, his physio [and his team]. We are definitely helping him improve every single week.
How good can he be? How much room does he have to grow?
I think it’s very hard to say at this point. I don’t want to put limitations on him. The first immediate goal would be to be Top 20. I honestly don’t know. His goal I know is to at one point try to play the Masters [Nitto ATP Finals]. I believe it will be in Turin next year. Definitely one of his dreams is to be Top 10. I think he has the ability to do it… If that’s doable or this is an option in the short term, only time will tell.
Last year was your final season on Tour but even before that you helped some players. How much have you enjoyed the challenge being on the other side of things as a coach?
I enjoy it so much. Sometimes I believe that I enjoy coaching more than I enjoyed playing. Whether I’m coaching and helping a girl at my academy or a junior or Novak [Djokovic] or whoever I’m helping, I really, really enjoy it so much.
When you were playing you faced a lot of adversity that you pushed through, so is it nice to help someone chase goals without putting the toll on your own body?
I don’t think of it in that way. The biggest issue I believe in the career of a professional tennis player is not the toll that he or she is putting on their body, it’s more the mental part of the pressure of [going after] your goals. For me I don’t actually feel any difference if I was playing before or the idea of the players that I’m helping are playing. The pressure and the expectations are the same as I was playing, especially if they’re aligning together with the player that I’m helping.
If you were still a player during this period, how do you think you would have handled having more than five months off?
I imagine I would have acted the same way that Filip did… I made a video on YouTube about it that players should really use this opportunity to work specifically on the things they feel [with their] teams that they need to improve on. Most of the players I believe were doing something. I believe most of the players were actually really practising. But I don’t believe that there is a big amount of players who were specifically with their teams working on things [with which] they need actual improvement.
Whether this is offence or defence or second serve or first serve, it’s irrelevant. I’m just not so optimistic that a big percentage of players were specifically working on things that they want to improve. So with this mindset that I have, I believe I would have been okay.
So it’s more about the specificity of the work players did, not just putting in work?
Number one part is to work. Again, I cannot prove this, but I think it’s tremendously important that you really work hard in these periods. You should have time off, there’s a certain mental toll that this pandemic is taking on all of us, the pressures, the anxiety… but the hard work is actually really important.
Number two, specific hard work is bringing you as a player to the next level. I am sure that some of the players were working hard, but I don’t believe it. All of the players were working hard over the course of these four months. The second part, I’m not believing that all of the players were working hard on the things that they need to improve.
How has life been in the New York bubble?
The days are pretty straightforward. I normally get up around 6. I do my work on my phone and emails until maybe 8. I go to the gym in the morning, we go to the site. Filip practises or plays the match. We go back and watch some NBA, have dinner and go to bed. It’s a pretty structured day.
It obviously helps that Filip is playing well because Saturday will be three weeks already since we’ve been in America. I believe that it’s very important that you are very productive in these times. I’m talking about players generally. This is only the second tournament of the upcoming seven or eight weeks of competing, which we will have until the end of 2020.