Novak Djokovic's bottles: Former coach speaks out amid Australian Open furore

Craig O’Shannessy has explained why Novak Djokovic has been receiving 'secret' notes on his drink bottles.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here receiving a note on his drink bottle at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic has been seen receiving notes on his drink bottles at the Australian Open. Image: AAP/TikTok

Craig O’Shannessy, who was formerly part of Novak Djokovic’s coaching team, has defended the Serbian star amid furore surrounding his entourage passing him notes on his bottles at the Australian Open. Video emerged on social media this week appearing to show Djokovic being passed a 'secret' note by his team.

The video, filmed by a spectator and uploaded to TikTok, shows a member of Djokovic's coaching staff attaching a piece of paper to a drink bottle before handing it to the tournament supervisor. The official then takes it to Djokovic before he reads the note and consumes the contents of the drink.

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The video was filmed during Djokovic's second-round match against Enzo Couacaud. The same could be seen occurring during his quarter-final win over Andrey Rublev.

While the note might simply be instructions on how the drink should be consumed, it has raised questions about whether Djokovic has been receiving illegal coaching. A recent change to tennis' rules allows for coaches to communicate verbally with players while at the same end of the court, as well as use hand signals while at the opposite end.

However there is nothing mentioned in the new rules about using written instructions. Previously, coaching during matches was banned altogether.

According to O'Shannessy, there is nothing untoward about what Djokovic and his team are doing. He told the Herald Sun: “The players take a lot on court with them already, bag, racquets etc and a lot of times they don’t really know what’s going to happen. They don’t know which electrolytes they’re going to need. This is completely normal and totally within the rules.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here being handed a drink bottle by the tournament supervisor at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic is handed a drink bottle by the tournament supervisor at the Australian Open. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

“In the day-to-day matches, for the coaching staff, particularly for the physio, it’s very normal for them to make something up as the match goes along and give it to Novak. If you’re not familiar with the inner workings of tennis it may look a little suspicious but it is not at all. Literally zero suspicion for a physio to create a drink and hand it over. It happens all the time."

The change to rules around coaching was illustrated last Sunday night during Stefanos Tsitsipas' clash with Jannik Sinner. Tsitsipas has been pinged for receiving coaching a number of times throughout his career, including at the Australian Open last year when a Greek-speaking official was placed below his coaches' box to pick up communication between him and his father Apostolos - who is also his coach.

However on Sunday night it was Sinner who took advantage of some mid-match coaching, with the Italian benefiting from some advice from the box on how to deal with Tsitsipas' serve. Sinner dropped the first two sets but sent the match to a fifth set after his coaches (including Australian Darren Cahill) were shown telling him to move back in the court while receiving.

Novak Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic, pictured here with another member of his team at the Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic and another member of his team at the Australian Open. (Photo by MARTIN KEEP/AFP via Getty Images)

Latest controversy over Novak Djokovic drink bottle

The fresh controversy over the Djokovic note passing comes after furore erupted last year over the contents of his drink bottle. Members of Djokovic's entourage were spotted blocking the view of cameras while preparing a drink for the Serbian star at the Paris Masters in November.

At the time, Aussie veteran John Millman said it was 'ridiculous' to suggest Djokovic and his team were doing anything untoward, while the Serbian star's wife Jelena also slammed the suggestion. Millman said: “Too much attention on a team member mixing sports drinks.

“A proper ridiculous notion that something is up, stadium full, cameras everywhere, drinks mixed in players box ... I mean use a little logic here, maybe just maybe they don’t want to give the edge to anyone.

“To add to that, inside a locker room you see a players team always making drinks, in unmarked bottles and put in the fridge. Training programs, supplement intake etc is trade secret.”

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