Novak Djokovic - Australian Open 2023

Novak Djokovic is a ‘mixture’ of Nadal and Federer claims former coach

Novak Djokovic has been described as a ‘mixture’ of both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, by his former coach of 15 years, Marian Vajda.

Vajda coached Djokovic across two spells, from 2006-2017 and 2018-2022, winning 20 of the Serb’s now 22 Grand Slams together, which is more than any other coaching partnership.

He has described his former student as a combination of his two greatest rivals, Nadal and Federer.

“Each one has their own [characteristics], but Novak is a mixture of both,” said Vajda. “He has the complete game of Roger and the tenacity of Nadal, and that combination is deadly.”

Vadja admitted that each member of the ‘big three’ has a very different playing style, but spoke of how their mentality is what makes them comparable.

“When it comes to tennis, everyone has their surface: Rafa loves clay, Roger hard courts, Nole grass. They have different styles and strategies of how to face the tournaments,” claimed Vajda.

He continued, “They always play well, and the objectives are the same: to be the best. They always want more and more and go forward. For 15-20 years, they were and still are the best. The mentality is key, and I think the rivalry helped them: it is the fuel they have to continue.”

Vajda and Djokovic’s working relationship came to an end last March, and the Slovak reflected on the ’emotional’ parting, “The relationship continues well, but it was cut off due to a professional issue.”

“We spent 15 years together. He decided to play fewer tournaments and be with a smaller team, and Goran [Ivanisevic] is number one on the team.”

Vajda continued, “It was a very difficult separation on an emotional level for both, but life goes on and Novak continues to be Novak. He’s stabilising, he knows how to train, how to get along with Goran. I’m fine, he’s fine. And that’s how it has to be.”

Despite no longer working together, Vajda confirmed that he still keeps in touch with the 22-time Grand Slam champion, “I keep in touch with him; we chat often on WhatsApp and exchange messages. Last time, he sent me a football video. I always write to him after a victory and also at other times. And then Australia was no exception.”

The 57-year-old was part of Djokovic’s team when he was deported from Australia last year, and has spoken of how he missed being part of the team when he was victorious this year on his return to Melbourne.

“At the Australian Open, I saw his great relief for what happened last year and for the injury he suffered during the tournament. You could feel the emotions [when he won]. In that sense, I do miss being in those moments.”

By winning the Australian Open, Djokovic tied Nadal with 22 major titles to his name and Vajda believes he is ‘capable’ of achieving his goal of winning leading the Grand Slam race, for the first time.

“That’s his goal. He has no limits, and I find that incredible. He is physically well, and for that he needs to be like this. If he has no injuries and remains physically fit, he has already shown at the Australian Open what he is capable of.”

Vajda is now working with fellow Slovakian and ATP No.51 Alex Molcan, and has high hope for what he can achieve alongside his 25-year-old countryman.

“I’ve been here for a long time and I’m still enjoying it. While I am satisfied with what I did and what I did with Novak, I still maintain the passion. I like to travel and that’s why I’m now with Alex Molcan with whom we have big ambitions.”

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.