Djokovic hires new coach ahead of Wimbledon

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Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic will add another former top player to his coaching team next week.

The 30-year-old Serbian confirmed on Saturday that former World No. 7 Mario Ancic will join him, along with Andre Agassi, during the fortnight at Wimbledon. Djokovic said he has long known Ancic, who grew up in neighbouring Croatia, and that the two have stayed in touch since the three-time ATP World Tour titlist had to retire in 2011 because of health problems, including complications from mononucleosis.

“He’s one of the closest friends I’ve ever had on the tour,” Djokovic said. “He was always a very nice guy, very smart… We always had that mutual respect and appreciation for one another.”

Ancic, 33, started a new career after tennis, earning his law degree from Columbia University in 2013. He now works as an investment banker with Credit Suisse in New York. But Djokovic said the two haven’t agreed on any long-term arrangement, and that Ancic, like Agassi, will help out when he’s available.

“He was to be in London for his own commitments, so he’s going to use the opportunity to be with me. Whether we’re going to build from there a long-term relationship or not, we’ll see,” Djokovic said.

The World No. 4 discussed adding Ancic with Agassi, who agreed that the Croatian would be a good addition. Agassi first joined Djokovic at Roland Garros earlier this season but has an array of obligations, including his family and his own foundation, that will limit how much time he can spend with Djokovic.

“[Agassi] is probably going to come on the biggest tournaments, and whenever he has free time in the schedule, he’s going to come and support me and help me out,” Djokovic said.

Ancic will help fill in the gaps, Djokovic said. “We have made a conclusion that we need someone next to Andre that is going to be maybe more frequently with me and more often at the small tournaments or maybe some practice weeks and so forth. Mario was the perfect guy. At the moment he was definitely on top of my list, and Andre agrees as well,” Djokovic said.

The Belgrade native begged off the suggestion that he should just work with someone who could travel and coach full-time. “I don’t like things easy,” Djokovic said, smiling. “I have certain criteria, I would say, for the profile of a person that is going to be next to me. It’s not just anyone who was on the tour. Everyone has their own preferences. I’m looking to have someone that fits into the values that I stand for and not just in sport but in life in general. Andre and Mario are there for a reason, and I’m very grateful to have them.”

It’s the fourth coaching announcement Djokovic had made during the past eight months. In May, Djokovic parted ways with his long-time coach Marian Vajda, having also split with Boris Becker at the end of 2016.

Perhaps Ancic will be able to share some unique insight at Wimbledon. In 2002, Ancic, then World No. 154, knocked out No. 9 Federer in the first round, which remains the last time Federer lost in his opener at the Grand Slam event. Ancic also reached the Wimbledon semi-finals (2004, l. to Roddick) and the quarter-finals twice (2006, l. to Federer; 2008, l. to Federer).

Djokovic, a three-time Wimbledon champion, is the second seed and will face Slovakian Martin Klizan in the first round.