Andre Agassi has revealed he is coaching Novak Djokovic for free and that this is his way of contributing to the tennis world.
The pair have teamed up this French Open after Djokovic announced he had parted ways with his long-time coach Marian Vajda last month and they’ve so far had a good start with the Serb booking himself a place in the fourth round on Friday, with a five-set win over Diego Schwartzman.
Agassi had shown little interest in coaching as he lives in Nevada with his wife Steffi Graf, and has founded charter schools for young children. But he said that it was his wife who actually urged him to take up Djokovic on his offer.
“It was a surprise for me. I got a call from him late in Monte Carlo after he was done and he wanted to talk tennis and he wanted to talk the possibility of working,” Agassi told Djokovic’s former coach Boris Becker on Eurosport.
“I said ‘listen, maybe I can help you over the phone, I don’t think you need much, but this is not possible for me with the balance of my life’.
“And then ‘Steffi says maybe, maybe you’ll enjoy it’. And I said ‘do you think?’ I respect her so much, I said ‘okay, I’ll go early since I have to be in Paris anyhow and I’ll just get to know him.
“He’s a very inspirational guy for me. For me, this is – I do it on my own time, I do it on my own dime, my own money, I don’t want anything, I don’t need anything. I want to help him. And it helps the game and I think he should be – him at his best is good for the game and it’s a way I can contribute, hopefully.”
It remains unclear how much time Agassi and Djokovic will be spending together but the American eight-time Grand Slam champion is willing to work with him at Wimbledon as well.
“If he wants me there, yeah, I will come and figure it out. Whatever is practical and achievable, 100 per cent I will make the effort.”
Becker, who had great success with Djokovic for three seasons (2014-2016), asked Agassi on which parts of the Serb’s game he would like to work on.
“I don’t want him thinking about the things that are going to make him so much better that he stops doing what comes naturally and all this, so this is a whole different conversation,” replied Agassi. “But for me it’s simple. His game is built on controlling the baseline. And his game is built on executing to big targets. He’s not a guy that plays precisely to lines, occasionally if he’s on the defence he surprises you with this.
“He’s a guy that throws body blow after body blow after body blow. He’s just never thought a lot about the other side of the court. So I think there’s ways he can take his game at 30 years old, and older, because hopefully he’s going to still want to play for a while and then he could start to make it easier for himself by knowing what to do with the guy across the net.”
On a day that witnessed few upsets but lots of drama and emotion, Andy Murray had his favourite argument with the umpire about the Spidercam, Eugenie Bouchard showed up late to her match, and Juan Martin del Potro melted hearts worldwide.
Murray had a tough time on court against an inspired Martin Klizan before he advanced in four tight sets. During the match, the world No1 threatened the umpire he would sit down if the Spidercam kept turning up in his line of vision while he was serving.
This is not a new pet peeve of Murray’s. He hates that thing. He elaborated once again in press.
“I don’t like it when the Spidercam is – I don’t know how many times I have spoken about it in here. You guys know, I don’t like it when it’s in my ball toss. And it was there at the beginning of the match. It was the same thing yesterday in the first round. It happened three or four times in the first round where it was there. I asked for it to be moved. They moved it. Then it comes back,” said Murray.
“I just don’t like it there. It puts me off, and I asked a few times today, and it kept coming back. I just said, If it’s there in my ball toss again, I’m going to sit down and wait for it to move, you know, because I just don’t feel I should have to be asking for it every change of ends to not be there. It’s quite a simple thing to change.”
We apologise on the French Open’s behalf, Sir Andy!
Meanwhile, Bouchard turned up several minutes late for her second round against Anastasija Sevastova on Court 2. Players usually step on court together so it was a bit unusual when she didn’t show up on time.
She explained later what happened.
“Well, there was a retirement before (Almagro retired on the same court against Del Potro). So, I mean, I had to do my whole routine. I had to get my ankle taped. I can’t just do everything in 10 minutes,” said the Canadian.
Asked how her opponent got there before her she said: “She ran ahead of me, I don’t know.”
In a heartbreaking moment in the Nick Kyrgios press conference, a reporter asked him if he could talk about his late grandfather who passed away five weeks ago. Kyrgios was very close to his grandfather and told us it’s been difficult to find motivation for tennis since his death.
In attempt to respond to the reporter’s question, Kyrgios said without looking us in the eye: “I mean, it was — yeah, when I was back home, it was tough. I mean, I can’t talk about it. I can’t.”
We were all smart enough to let him go after that.
Here’s a look at how day 5 went down at Roland Garros…
There were plenty of impressive points today, but I prefer to highlight these two atrocities from Tatjana Maria and Martin Klizan instead.
Maria did this:
While Klizan did this to get broken while serving for the fourth set:
Can't tell which one was worse, this from Klizan or Tatjana Maria's pic.twitter.com/Y6zn9jcEPw— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) June 2, 2017
19 — weeks since Agnieszka Radwanska had won back-to-back matches prior to Thursday
30 — men aged 30 or over reached the second round in Paris, an Open era record at a Grand Slam
67 — unforced errors committed by Martin Klizan in his four set second round defeat to Andy Murray
78 — minutes, the length of the fourth set between Murray and Klizan – longest set of the day
“I wish. It’s not that easy, especially comparing me to Federer, let’s come back to reality.”
– Agnieszka Radwanska when asked if she would ‘pull a Federer’ and skip the clay season altogether in the future
“Get me a beer now. Get me one right now. Honest to God.”
– Nick Kyrgios, on court, after dropping serve in game three of the fourth set in his loss to Kevin Anderson. Because, why not?
“No. I could be close, between you and me.”
— John Isner when told his next opponent Karen Khachanov is married at the age of 20 while the American was not. Not sure how Isner thought his answer would be “between him and the reporter”.
Karen Khachanov bt. Tomas Berdych  7-5, 6-3, 6-1
Playing his first Roland Garros main draw, and just his third Grand Slam overall, Khachanov upset 2010 semi-finalist Berdych in a two-hour 13-minute affair.
Anna Chakvetadze and her fellow Eurosport presenters/commentators went around asking Roland Garros fans to pronounce difficult Russian surnames. Which is a hilarious idea. It all went well until Chakvetadze decided to say ‘arigato’ (thank you in Japanese) to a woman from Taiwan. It’s beyond me why they didn’t edit it out.
Selima Sfar, the only Arab woman to ever rank in the top 100, believes her Tunisian compatriot Ons Jabeur is the perfect person to pass on the baton to after the 22-year-old made history by reaching the third round at Roland Garros.
Jabeur became the first-ever Arab woman to reach the last-32 at a Grand Slam when she upset No6 seed Dominika Cibulkova at the French Open on Wednesday and Sfar, who is now retired and works as a commentator for beIN Sports, could not be happier for her countrywoman and friend.
“I am extremely proud, I’m extremely happy for her but proud and happy not only for her but all the Arab women, Tunisians, Arabs and Muslim women. This is an amazing message. It’s been a long time that I’ve been waiting maybe to pass (the baton) to someone and Ons came – not only I found somebody to pass it, but to somebody great, somebody with so much talent,” Sfar told Sport360 in the video message above.
“What happened, during such a symbolic tournament, on such a big court, it can’t be better, so congratulations to her.”
Jabeur, who made it into the French Open main draw as a lucky loser, faces Swiss No30 seed Timea Bacsinszky in the third round on Friday (fourth match on Court 1 from an 11:00am start), looking to keep her fairy-tale going.
Her coach, Mislav Hizak, whom she teamed up with at the end of last season, has been pleased with her progress so far this year and can only see her moving onwards and upwards.
“I believe she is an amazing player and it was amazing to see her at this level, to compete and to win,” Hizak told Sport360 of her win over Cibulkova – the first top-10 win of her career.
“I feel like she deserved it throughout all the hard work that we’ve put into it, just day-in, day-out, the things that we’ve been doing.
“This for sure is the best moment of her career and I’m happy for that, the things that she’s improving. She’s a young player, she has many more years of good career, and I know she will only be better.”
The Croatian coach has seen notable differences since they’ve started working together, particularly with her discipline and work ethic.
“She’s a good character, an open person, a very communicative person, no doubt about it, a very big character,” he says.
“I think she picked up her professionalism to a higher level, her discipline, all her attitude, I think it’s grown in her. She understands what needs to be done, she’s making some choices for herself, and some sacrifices, and some right choices. She’s also letting go and communicating with me and trusting me as well. She knows it’s a path, it’s a process and she’s making these things for herself.”
Jabeur’s friend, Daria Kasatkina, the No26 seed in Paris, also vouched for the hard work the Tunisian has been putting in. They spent their preseason together in Slovakia with Empire Tennis Academy and even did some altitude training in the mountains to prepare for 2017.
“That was a good one, I was watching yesterday on my phone, she was playing very well I think,” said Kasatkina of Jabeur’s triumph over Cibulkova. “I’m really happy for her because she deserves it. I know how hard she works, we worked together in my academy, so what she has, she deserved. And I hope she can go further and further.”
Jabeur impressed with her serve in her second round against Cibulkova, as she dropped just two points on her first serve, and saved one of the two break points she faced.
“That’s a weapon. She has a very good motion on the serve, I think it’s a big weapon for her and her game that we based and we did a lot of work on that in the times that we had for training,” said Hizak. “We emphasised a lot of her things on the serve as well as on the return – I think we improved that aspect a lot and we’ll still keep on improving it to be really solid as a base of her game. When you have good motion and a good technical movement, you’ve got to use it on this level, it’s a big advantage.”
Jabeur has had trouble with her fitness in the past but Hizak believes those days are now behind her as she has made significant progress in that area.
“It’s better. I cannot say it’s the best, of course it can be better and I think she knows that too but since she already improved, she’s not really worried about it because she knows she’s on the right track and I think it will just become even better,” he explained.