Vajda Says Djokovic 'Has Ability To Win The Grand Slam This Year'
Novak Djokovic kept his hopes of winning the calendar-year Grand Slam alive on Sunday with a thrilling five-set comeback against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Roland Garros final. One of the Serbian’s coaches, Marian Vajda, had a hilarious reaction when asked about the World No. 1’s pursuit of lifting all four major trophies this year.
“We said with [fellow Djokovic coach] Goran [Ivanisevic] that if he accomplishes the [calendar-year] Grand Slam, that we are going to quit. We officially announce this as coaches!” Vajda said, cracking a laugh. “I think it’s possible, much more [than] possible. He loves to play at Wimbledon and the US Open. I was worried a little bit more about clay courts, because for a long period of time, in the past 10 years, he had great results, and he could have done much more at the French Open, but just couldn't make it.”
Djokovic became the first player in the Open Era to complete the Australian Open-Roland Garros double twice. Now the 19-time Grand Slam champion will turn his attention to the third major of the year at Wimbledon.
“As much as Novak is healthy, and he's healthy right now, he's in great shape, I think he has ability to win the Grand Slam this year,” Vajda said. “I’m pretty sure.”
This was not the first time Djokovic has triumphed at Roland Garros, having also lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires in 2016. But Vajda admitted he values this victory even more than the one from five years ago, when he completed his Career Grand Slam in Paris against Andy Murray.
“I think I appreciate this trophy much more than [five] years ago, [in] 2016, when he beat Andy, because it was the level of tennis was not there [from] Novak,” Vajda said. “Maybe [the] first time, he was more nervous than now, [but] he used his experience at the end in the final today.”
For a while, it appeared that Djokovic would fall short inside Court Philippe-Chatrier this year. After a sensational performance to eliminate 13-time champion Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals, the Serbian fell two sets behind Tsitsipas on Sunday. Vajda said his charge not only raised his tennis level, but his physical energy.
“I was really worried a little bit the first two sets that after two sets I just hoped for [him] to gain the energy, because he was really flat in the second set,” Vajda said. “Obviously everything fell on him: four sets with Rafa, the first two sets. I think he was a little flat in the first two sets. First set he had a set point obviously. He could have done it. He didn't [make a] good enough return.
“He came back. That was the most important point of the final. He had this belief. I think Rafa's game gave him a lot of confidence, believing in himself that he can win the French Open. [The] first two sets it took him a little bit off, because maybe he was thinking too much ahead. Then he was able to be in present after the first two sets. Then he just prevailed [with] his tennis.”
Vajda spoke about how tough it is to win Roland Garros and how difficult the adjustment is to clay. Even for Djokovic, it takes time to find his best on the surface. But watching him mentally push through every day to get better is part of what makes Vajda enjoy coaching the 19-time major winner so much.
“He wants to really improve over every element of his game. This is amazing. I really admire that, that he wants to be better and better,” Vajda said. “I remember as a player, I always wanted to develop my game, but I couldn't. In some moment I had limits. [It] looks like Novak still sees his game, at the level that he can really go much farther, improve on his serve, backhand, overall game, volleys. This makes me so happy as a coach.”