Nearly a year after his slump started, Novak Djokovic is ready to reveal his new game at the French Open.
The 30-year-old Djokovic won the tournament at Roland Garros last year for his fourth straight major title. That completed a career Grand Slam, but it also marked the end of his dominance.
Last week, in an effort to turn things around, Djokovic said former great Andre Agassi would be his coach on the red clay in Paris.
“He’s someone who inspires me, and that’s what I felt I needed. A new inspiration, someone who knows what I’m going through,” Djokovic said Friday, two days before the start of the French Open. “He’s been in my shoes before, playing Grand Slams, being the best in the world, facing all the challenges … we can relate to each other.
“That’s why I’m very excited for him being here because it’s a great opportunity for me to learn, to grow.”
After last year’s French Open, Djokovic lost in the third round at Wimbledon, his earliest defeat in a Grand Slam in seven years. He then lost in the first round at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, reached the final of the U.S. Open, and lost early again at the Australian Open.
The Serb finished 2016 at No. 2, his current ranking, and has won only one of his last 11 tournaments.
At the beginning of the month, Djokovic split with longtime coach Marian Vajda and two other team members – fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic.
“It feels like a new chapter. It’s a big change that I’ve experienced in the last three, four weeks, separating from the team I was with the last 10 years,” Djokovic said. “It feels exciting. It feels right in this moment.
“In the last five, six months I was struggling a bit on the court. I’m trying to redefine myself and rediscover what kind of approach is the right one. I just felt I needed change. We needed to go our separate ways.”
Agassi, who retired in 2006, won eight Grand Slam titles – four fewer than Djokovic – but has never coached.
Djokovic said he wasn’t planning on starting a professional relationship when he contacted Agassi for the first time.
“I asked for his contact number to thank him for talking nicely about me in the press,” Djokovic said. “He only had positives to say about me … when things weren’t going well, he was one of the few standing on my side and supporting me, so I wanted to thank him.
“It turned out to be a long conversation and that’s where it started. We didn’t think about it becoming a professional relationship but after a few weeks it did … I was not rushing the process of getting a new coach because I trust in myself. I’ve been around long enough to know how to play tennis.”
Agassi and Djokovic have been speaking regularly on the phone for the past couple of weeks but trained together for the first time on Thursday at Roland Garros.
The 47-year-old Agassi will not stay in Paris for the duration of the French Open.
“Yesterday was the first day. We had practice and then had a very long talk in the evening,” Djokovic said. “Even thought it was the first day, it felt like we’d known each other a long time. We just clicked and connected.
“Andre is a perfect fit for me now in every aspect.”