Novak Djokovic confirmed American great Andre Agassi as his new coach Sunday, but said they did not yet have a “long-term commitment”.
“I spoke to Andre the last couple weeks on the phone, and we decided to get together in Paris. So he’s gonna be there. We’ll see what future brings. We are both excited to work together and see where it takes us,” said Djokovic, beaten 6-4, 6-3 in the Rome Masters final on Sunday by 20-year-old German Alexander Zverev.
“We don’t have any long-term commitment. It’s just us trying to get to know each other in Paris a little bit.”
Djokovic returns to Paris next weekend as the defending French Open champion but looking to improve his clay court game after an inconsistent spell.
He parted with long-time coach Marian Vajda earlier this month, having also ended a three-year relationship with six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker at the end of last season, in a bid to get back to his brilliant best.
Becker took to Twitter to back Djokovic’s decision.
Given his performances of late, he will be hoping 47-year-old Agassi, an eight-time Grand Slam champion, can make a positive contribution.
The Serbian was outplayed by Spanish nemesis Rafael Nadal on his way to defeat in the semi-finals of the Madrid Masters last week. And despite reaching the final in Rome on Sunday, Djokovic looked well below his clinical best before losing to German starlet Zverev in 1hr 21min.
Next up is his defence of his title in the French capital, and Djokovic added: “He (Agassi) will not stay the whole tournament. He’s gonna stay only to a certain time, and then we’ll see after that what’s gonna happen.
“Obviously, Andre is someone that I have tremendous respect for as a person and as a player. He has been through everything that I’m going through. You know, on the court he understands the game amazingly well. I am enjoying every conversation that I have with him. But also, on the other hand, he’s someone that nurtures the family values, philanthropy work.
“He’s a very humble man, is very educated in just — you know, he’s a person that can contribute to my life on and off the court a lot. I’m very excited to see what is ahead of us.”
Agassi, unlike television pundit Becker, has been away from the sport for a considerable time having retired in 2006.
Djokovic said he managed to seduce Agassi, the 1999 French Open champion, smiling: “I persuaded him.”
He added: “He’s someone that has been so successful in this sport, and he’s a legend of our sport. He’s made a mark in this sport forever. He’s won everything there is to win in tennis. You know, he was a revolutionary player because he had this charisma, he had this, you know, approach to tennis and to life that was quite different from others.
“That’s why he was so interesting. Yes, he has been away from the tour for last 10, 15 years, but speaking with him, he’s been definitely following up closely all the matches, the big matches, especially on the TV.
“It was his call whether or not he wants to take that step and, you know, try to work with me. He has accepted it, and I’m very grateful for that. It’s exciting, of course. I’m very happy about it.”
Germany’s Alexander “Sascha” Zverev stunned four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 to win his first Masters title on Sunday, confirming his status as a French Open dangerman.
The 20-year-old Zverev claimed his maiden Masters 1000 title after becoming the youngest player in a decade to reach a final at this level and will move to 10 in the world as a result of his impressive victory.
Djokovic, who turns 30 on Monday, was the previous youngest Masters finalist, going all the way to the title in Miami as a 19-year-old in 2007.
But despite a clinical straight sets win over Austrian Dominic Thiem on Saturday, world number two Djokovic produced a flawed performance on centre court that saw him curse and swear as he struggled to find a way back into the match.
Overall, Djokovic had 27 unforced errors to 14 for Zverev, who also had 16 winners to the Serb’s 11.
Zverev now has four career titles, three of which have come this year while Djokovic was denied what would have been a record 31st Masters title.
“Playing against Novak, one of the best players to ever play — it was an honour being on the court with you,” said Zverev, the first player born in the 1990s to win a Masters title.
“You’re an amazing player. Unfortunately this week you didn’t win, but I’m sure as we get closer to Paris you’ll be one of the favourites for the title.”
Zverev broke in the first game of the final on his way to the first set and carved out the crucial first break of the second set in the third game.
Djokovic’s frustrations boiled over when he was handed a warning for an audible obscenity in the eighth game before he was broken again in the ninth as Zverev celebrated his first Masters title.
“I wish you go on to win many of these titles,” Djokovic told the young German.
“Yesterday I played what I thought was one of the best matches of my life on clay. Today I played something else. But that’s sport.”
Despite the defeat, Djokovic will start the French Open, which gets underway next Sunday, as one of the leading favourites having completed the career Grand Slam in Paris in 2016.
Spanish No1 Garbine Muguruza has picked up her form just in time for her Roland Garros title defence as she made her way into the Rome semi-finals.
The 23-year-old world No7 took time out of her busy schedule to do the Sport360 Rapid Fire Round.
Who would Muguruza pick to play her in a movie? And who is her favourite athlete outside tennis? The Venezuela-born Spaniard tells all in the video above.