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After his 6-0, 6-1 win over Dusan Lajovic at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Novak Djokovic talked for nearly 15 minutes with reporters and dished on his relationship with Andre Agassi and Radek Stepanek, what they meant to each other, why they parted ways, and what he feels now that he is reuniting with his former coach Marian Vajda.

It’s a deep and insightful interview from Djokovic, who took the time to explain what was at the root of a lot of his decision making in the last year. He clears the air about his friendship with Agassi and Stepanek and speaks glowingly of how Agassi helped him in a time of need. Even though the partnership didn’t bear fruit on the tennis court, Djokovic said he is immensely grateful to Agassi and goes on to say he learned a lot from him, and not just about tennis.

Djokovic says that he now feels safe and invigorated after pairing with Vajda again, and even though they aren’t talking about a long-term commitment yet, the signs appear to be there, based on Djokovic’s effusive praise of the relationship and what it has done for his mindset in the short time they have worked together.

See the full press conference above, and jump below for snippets of transcription. Djokovic will face Borna Coric in second-round action on Wednesday in Monte-Carlo.

Djokovic on his need for more live matches:

“I personally feel and I know that you can also see it from outside, that I’m lacking more of the match play. More of the situations of competiton, playing out points in an official match. Because obviously practicing and playing practice sets is one thing and playing an official match completely is something else—mentally mostly.”

On How his struggles in March are fueling him:

“The post-surgery period, me trying to come back to Indian Wells and Miami and obviously playing well below the desired level, it wasn’t that easy to cope with all of that but at the same time it made me even more inspired to come back and try to play the way I played today.”

On his performance today:

“I thought I started the tournament well, first match on clay against a very good friend of mine… I thought all in all it was a great start to the tournament.”

On his second go with Vajda:

“It’s a fresh start for both of us. I missed him and I have a feeling that he missed me, or tennis, or both. But we both enjoyed a lot the last ten days of practice we had. He knows me better than any tennis coach I’ve worked with. He’s a friend, he’s someone I can share a lot of things with, whether it’s professional or private life—he’s always there for me.”

“He knows me inside out, he knows what I need in order to get to the highest possible level of play. We could not ask for a better start.”

“As I’ve mentioned before we don’t have any kind of long-term commitment with each other, we just want to see how it goes in this tournament. So far it has been a lot of positive things, actually only positive emotions. Every practice session and today on the court so hopefully we can keep going in the right direction.”

“Today, pain free, obviously having Marian there’s a lot of positive emotions as I said. He knows me very well so we worked on a lot of great things in the last ten days. Physically I think I’m getting in better shape as the weeks go by, so I think today was a combination of a few factors and elements.”

“That first practice that we had, that’s what I felt. I felt safe on the court, I felt motivated, I felt a lot of great things. Yeah, we’re going to both work to keep it that way.”

On what Agassi and Stepanek meant to him:

“First of all I am so grateful to both of them for being willing to help me out to be there for me to contribute as much as they can to my career, to my life, and of course we still stay friends.”

“This doesn’t affect our personal relationships that we have established over the years—both with Radek and Andre—but we did decide to part ways because both sides did feel that that’s best, for me and for them.”

“I didn’t know which direction I wanted to go after Indian Wells and Miami, I was questioning, and I didn’t want to keep them in the dark in a way, not being decisive and not giving them clear indications about what I’m going to do.”

On the elbow:

“The elbow was still not as good as it was in the last ten days, seven days, so after two years finally I can play without pain and Indian Wells and Miami—especially Indian Wells—was not like that. I understand that I may have rushed my decision to play a little because I missed matches, I missed playing. I didn’t have a risk of hurting the elbow which was good, but I obviously wasn’t ready to play at that level physically.”

More specifically on Agassi:

“We didn’t have any contract—he was not working with me officially. He was helping me out, he was genuinely wanting to help and to give me advice and to share his experience with me and that speaks enough about him as a person. He’s someone that I always admired as a player and a person. The last eight, nine months with Andre was amazing. The amount of things that I learned, not just about tennis but about life in general, and for that I’m very grateful. We didn’t have an official relationship so we could not have ended it. His invitation to call me is always open so I can call him any day and speak with him and ask him for tips and advice and share something so that always the case with Andre and with Radek as well.”

“I just have gratitude towards Andre for what he has done for me in the last year or so. That’s it. I felt only friendship I felt only sincere willingness and desire to help me out and that’s all. I don’t care about the game, who comes in and who says things in the press first. Nobody offended anybody so we’re still in a good situation.”


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