The tennis world was taken aback by yet another Novak Djokovic surprise as his 2022 took another unexpected twist nobody saw coming.
Novak Djokovic’s longtime coach and mentor is no longer part of his team after it was revealed on Wednesday the pair split up following last year’s ATP Finals in Turin.
Tennis Majors reports Djokovic and Marian Vajda, who has guided the 34-year-old for 14 of the past 15 years, have ended their professional relationship. They started working together in 2006 and separated once before, after which Djokovic’s results hit the skids.
The pair partnered back up and enjoyed more success as Vajda has been by Djokovic’s side for every one of his 20 grand slam title wins.
Tennis Majors reports the coaching break-up is because Vajda, 56, wants to spend more time with his family and has nothing to do with the visa and deportation dramas that rocked Djokovic’s attempt to play the Australian Open in January.
“Marian has been by my side during the most important and memorable moments in my career,” Djokovic said. “Together we have achieved some incredible things and I am very grateful for his friendship and dedication over the last 15 years.
“While he might be leaving the professional team he will always be family and I can’t thank him enough for all he has done.”
Meanwhile, Serbian tennis journalist Sasa Ozmo also reports car manufacturer Peugeot and Djokovic have ended their sponsorship arrangement — but the star’s anti-vaccination stance is allegedly not the reason for the move.
Some in the tennis world were surprised by Vajda’s exit from Djokovic’s coaching team. French journalist Carole Bouchard tweeted: “Marian Vajda walking away from Novak Djokovic has been tried in the past. It has never succeeded. Tough to see that as a good sign, also because Vajda has always kinda been Novak’s ‘Gandalf’: reassuring, showing the way, keeping the pressure at reasonable levels … Wait and see.
“I’ve always said the same: when all is well in Novak’s world, he can do without Vajda or anyone whatsoever, but when his tennis world gets rocked for whatever reasons (and he has a few now), he always looked for Vajda’s steady eyes. You remove that now, ok, let’s see …”
In response to the news, tennis commentator Jose Morgado wrote: “Wow!!”
Speaking during the Australian Open after Djokovic’s last-ditch legal challenge to remain in the country failed, Vajda hit out at how the nine-time Melbourne Park champion was treated.
“I still don’t understand why they did it to him,” Vajda told Sport Klub. “It was an unhealthy and unjust decision, based on the assumption that Djokovic could do or influence something that had not yet happened.
“I haven’t communicated with him since he arrived in Belgrade. It is clear that it hit him mentally, it will hurt him for a long time and it will be difficult to get it out of his head.
“I can’t imagine how he handled it. It must have been a huge suffering.”
During the first grand slam of the year French parliament approved a vaccine pass law which would require people to have a vaccination certificate in order to enter places such as restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.
Vajda said he couldn’t understand why such a discussion about the mandate and its possible impact on Djokovic’s French Open campaign was taking place months out from the next major, which is scheduled to start in May.
“I don’t understand … why it’s important for them to announce this now about the tournaments that will take place in May, when the world doesn’t even know what will happen to the pandemic in a month,” he said.
“I do not want to underestimate the whole situation. It is serious in the world. But what is the purpose of discussing it now in January? Is it still about sport?”
Despite all he endured, Vajda said Djokovic “is strong, resolute and has not yet said his last word in tennis”.
At the time, Vajda’s comments were the most explosive to come out of the Djokovic camp since his deportation for arriving in Australia without a valid vaccination exemption.