Novak Djokovic reacts to curious French Open coaching twist

·4-min read
Pictured right, Novak Djokovic hugs his long-time former coach Marian Vajda.
Novak Djokovic is not relishing the prospect of coming up against his long-time former coach Marian Vajda at the French Open. Pic: Getty

Novak Djokovic says he is "not looking forward to" coming up against his long-time former coach, Marian Vajda, in the second round of the French Open.

In a curious scheduling twist, the World No.1 has been drawn to play Vajda's new charge, Slovakian Alex Molcan after both men won their opening round clashes.

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Djokovic split from Vajda after last year's ATP Finals, having worked with the Slovakian coach since he was a teenager in 2006.

The pair split in 2017 before reuniting the following year.

Djokovic won the majority of his 20 grand slam titles under the guidance of Vajda, and unsurprisingly is not relishing the fact his former mentor will be in his opponent's corner in Paris.

“I've written to Marian a few days ago, we have seen each other here as well,” the defending champion said this week about his long-time coach and friend.

“When I looked at the draw, it wasn't easy, I must admit.”

The 35-year-old says he has no problem facing Molcan but it is little uneasy about coming up against Vajda for the first time in his career.

“Molcan for me is an opponent just like any other, but I've never had Marian in the opposing box,” he continued.

“To be honest, I am not looking forward to it.”

Djokovic eased to victory in round one in his first grand slam match since losing last year's US Open final.

Standing in the way of a record-equalling 21st major are 13-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal and young gun Carlos Alcaraz, both of whom are drawn on the same brutally stacked side of the draw as the World No.1.

"The draw is the draw. You can't really affect it. It's a matter of luck or some other force interfering with who is going to come to which side and quarter and semi and whatever," Djokovic said.

"I did look at the draw. I think we all do. But at the end of the day, you always have to turn your attention to only the next challenge."

Nadal, Alcaraz loom on Djokovic's side of the draw

Chasing a 14th French Open title, Nadal goes up against French wildcard Corentin Moutet in the evening session. Moutet knocked out 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in round one.

Nadal began the year with a 20-match winning run, capturing a second Australian Open title to claim a record 21st Grand Slam and move ahead of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The 35-year-old's record at the French Open stands at a staggering 106 wins and just three losses since his 2005 title-winning debut, but he is without a title on clay this season after dealing with rib and foot injuries.

Seen here, Rafa Nadal after winning his opening match at the French Open.
Rafa Nadal is chasing a 14th French Open title at the 2022 clay court grand slam. Pic: Getty

"Of course the confidence is higher when you win Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, or Rome," said Nadal.

"When you are winning more matches and more tournaments you have better confidence. The opponents feels that too, and at the end, you are more used to the level that you need to play to win matches.

"When this is not the case, things are different."

Alcaraz, 19, is attempting to become just the eighth teenager to capture a major men's title, and widely tipped to break the stranglehold of Djokovic and Nadal.

He is the tour's dominant player in 2022, posting a 29-3 record and winning a season-leading four titles.

Three of his triumphs have come on clay in Rio, Barcelona and Madrid where he defeated Nadal, Djokovic and world number three Alexander Zverev to hoist the trophy.

He faces fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas for a place in the last 32.

with agencies

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