Ivan Ljubicic link up not too surprising for Roger Federer

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All about the fun: Roger Federer.

Leave it to Roger Federer to turn a relatively dull news day in the tennis offseason into a frenzy of speculation over his latest coaching reshuffle.

The Swiss legend announced late on Tuesday that his partnership with Stefan Edberg had ended and that he has added Ivan Ljubicic to his team as a replacement.

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Ljubicic is an interesting choice from Federer and it prompted many to wonder in what way the Croat could actually help the world No3. During his two and a half years with Milos Raonic, Ljubicic helped the Canadian reach a career-high ranking of No4 and make his first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon last season. Which means the 36-year-old is not without coaching pedigree.

Granted, it’s not every day a player gets coached by someone who was a poor 3-13 against him head-to-head during his career.

But it’s clear Federer’s decisions in the past few years have been based on making sure the Swiss star is enjoying his life on tour – from picking tournaments in locations he had never visited before to hiring his idol, Edberg, as a coach.

Considering Federer has a great relationship with Ljubicic, it comes as no surprise that he would want someone he is friendly with, and whom he respects, with him on board. At this point in his career, technical help does not really matter – he’s had plenty of time to master that- but having someone smart, with a calm demeanour and who has known him for over a decade and knows today’s game well is definitely a plus.

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Murray keen to keep his focus on tennis despite security alert

Allan Kelly 25/11/2015
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Murray said he would understand if British fans didn’t travel to Ghent.

Andy Murray said he had no qualms about playing the Davis Cup final in Belgium despite the security alert, but added that he would understand if any British fans decided to cancel their trips.

The world No2, and the rest of the British team, arrived in Ghent, 55 kilometres from Brussels, on Monday a day later than planned after the Belgium capital was put on maximum security alert in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Paris that killed 130 people. The lockdown was still in place yesterday as the hunt for suspected terrorists continued, but Murray said the feeling was very different in Ghent.

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“It was obviously a bit concerning a few days ago,” he said. “I think once we got here and got into the hotel, came to the venue and saw what it was like here, I think that made everyone a lot more comfortable. Obviously it’s a different situation in Brussels than it is here.

“I know a lot of fans were staying there and planning on travelling. Obviously listen to the right people, if you’re doing that. But here in Ghent, everything seems fine. It’s very quiet. I think it’s a really nice city.

“I hope as many fans can travel over as possible to give us the best support. Obviously understand if people make another decision because of what’s been happening in Brussels.”

Murray’s older brother Jamie, who is expected to join him for what could be a crucial doubles rubber on Saturday, said that not playing in Ghent because of the security situation had never been an option for him. 

“I was always planning on coming and playing. Things had happened that made it a bit more concerning,” he said. “But, you know, we’re here. We’re training. Business as normal. Ready to play.”

Security has been tightened at the 13,000 capacity Flanders Expo which will host the final from Friday to Sunday including a ban on bags and backpacks, as well as any food and drink, inside the arena. Sniffer dogs will also be used at the stadium to search for explosives.

Belgian team captain Johan Van Herck said that his team were fully satisfied with the precautions and ready to play in the country’s first Davis Cup final in 111 years.

“I think we as a team have a lot of confidence in the organisation,” he said. “I know when they had to put the work in for the security, there’s no reason and we have no doubts that we will be safe here.”

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Novak Djokovic's phenomenal year a lesson in determination

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Djokovic closed the gap against Nadal and Federer with a stellar display this year.

The 2015 ATP season has ended the same way it started – with the tennis world marvelling at the masterfulness of Novak Djokovic.

In January, the Serbian world No1 became the first player in the Open Era to claim five Australian Open crowns. Last Sunday, his triumph in the ATP World Tour Finals made him the first in the event’s history to win it four times in a row.

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Grabbing 11 titles in 11 months, including three majors and six Masters 1000 crowns – the numbers behind Djokovic’s season are absolutely staggering.

Barring a quarter-final defeat to Ivo Karlovic in the first week of the year in Doha, Djokovic has made the final in every tournament he competed in and has amassed a remarkable 31-5 record against top-10 opposition along the way.

With 38 per cent of his wins this year coming in matches against top-10 players, Djokovic wasn’t just racking up victories, he was doing it against the very best week-in, week-out.

But Djokovic’s season was much more than a statistical masterpiece. The 28-year-old took us on a journey with him in his quest to become one of the greatest of all time. In the era of Roger Federer fanatics and Rafael Nadal loyalists, Djokovic is doing everything to expand his “NoleFam”.

This year, he gave you the sense that he wasn’t just trying to win matches. His battles were about pushing boundaries – physical, mental and everything plausible.

There was so much angst in his clashes. He’d refer to the handful of mid-match lapses he suffered as “physical crises” and he rebounded from each one of them by delivering a bagel to his opponents, as if it were punishment for thinking they had a chance.

He was overpowered by Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final – his only grand slam defeat of the season – and received the most touching standing ovation I’ve ever witnessed live. The clapping just never stopped. He looked and felt crushed, but he reacted to that setback in Herculean fashion, winning Wimbledon five weeks later.

In a way, not being successful at the French Open this year could end up being a good thing for his fans and for the tennis world in general. With the box next to Roland Garros still unchecked on his bucket list, the Serb has a major goal to chase in 2016 and we’ve seen what a hungry Djokovic looks and plays like.

Hailing from a country with little tennis tradition, Djokovic is creating his own. Four years ago, he walked into the press room at the O2 in London with boxes of chocolates and walked around handing each journalist a piece. Since then, he’s repeated that gesture in the very first and very last press conferences of each season.

He is the first of the top players to speak out about the refugee crisis and insists, “we all have to be humans and feel for one another. We have to put that in front of all the laws and borders and different political stuff”.

Djokovic may not have the fanbase acquired by Federer or Nadal, who had a few years of a headstart, but he is all about heart and sooner or later, more people will appreciate that.

Ending the year with an equal career head-to-head record against both Federer and Nadal must have been a nice bonus for Djokovic. His rivalries against them are the two most contested in the sport and he is now on level terms against both of them.

Meanwhile, Federer walked off the court in London ranked No3 in the world but is undisputedly the second best player in tennis at the moment. Even if he doesn’t win another major, the Swiss can retire, whenever he chooses to, knowing that he was still a top dog well into his mid-30s.

To be able to still improve at the age of 34 is something only Federer can do. His timelessness will be his greatest legacy.

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