Tennis

‘Novak Djokovic could have lost to Aleksandar Vukic,’ ex coach admits

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Novak Djokovic steel seeks his first title of the season following defeats at the Australian Open and Indian Wells. After his Indian Wells failure, Novak ended his collaboration with Goran Ivanisevic, parting ways with his coach after almost five years and numerous accomplishments. In his recent interview with Sasa Ozmo, Ivanisevic admitted they struggled to find a common language in the USA, feeling the time was right for a big decision. Goran confessed Novak could have lost in the opening Indian Wells match to Aleksandar Vukic, prevailing 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 after two hours and ten minutes. World no. 1 played in the desert for the first time since 2019 and notched his 400th Masters 1000 victory, becoming the second player to achieve that after Rafael Nadal.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff – Getty Images Sport

 

Novak’s first serve worked well, saving four out of six break points. He converted five out of 13 break points, recovering after a tight second set and emerging at the top. Djokovic landed 24 winners and 22 unforced errors, overpowering his rival in the shortest and more advanced rallies despite lacking speed at some moments. Novak landed in 78% of the first serve in the first set and had the upper hand on serve and return. Djokovic lost six points in his games, saving the only break point and keeping the pressure on the other side. Vukic could not follow that pace, losing almost half of the points in his games and getting broken two times. Djokovic clinched a break in the first game of the match when his rival sprayed a forehand error.

Novak painted a backhand down the line winner in the second game for 2-0 and earned another break chance in the next one. Aleksandar saved it with an unreturned serve and held, getting his name on the scoreboard. The Aussie created a break chance in the fourth game, and the Serb denied it with a service winner, moving 3-1 in front. Novak held at love in game six for 4-2 and earned a break chance in the next one. Aleksandar sprayed a forehand error, losing serve for the second time and falling 5-2 behind. Djokovic served for the opener in game eight and landed an ace, wrapping up the set in style and hoping for more in the second. Vukic grabbed only 25% of the points behind the second serve.

Aleksandar Vukic, Indian Wells 2024

Aleksandar Vukic, Indian Wells 2024© Michael Owens / Stringer – Getty Images Sport

 

Goran Ivanisevic shared his thoughts about Novak Djokovic’s Indian Wells match.

However, he challenged Djokovic and remained competitive, opening an early advantage and delivering a late break to force a decider. Aleksandar earned two break chances in the second game with a forehand winner, missing them but seizing the third after Novak’s backhand error. Vukic had to dig deep to confirm the advantage, playing against three break points in the third game and saving them to open a 3-0 lead. Djokovic made another push on the return in game five from 15-40, climbing back and converting a break point with a volley winner to reduce the deficit. World no. 1 held at 15 in the sixth game, claiming three straight games and leveling the score at 3-3.

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024

Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff – Getty Images Sport

 

They served well in games seven and eight, and the Aussie opened a 5-4 lead with an unreturned serve in the ninth. The Serb prolonged the set with a forehand down the line winner in the tenth game, adding more drama. Aleksandar delivered another fine hold in the 11th game, keeping the pressure on the other side. Novak could not endure it, netting a forehand at 5-6 and facing two set points. Vukic converted the second with a forehand return winner, clinching the set 7-5 and forcing a decider after an hour and a half. Djokovic made a fresh start in the final set, holding at love in the second game and landing a forehand down the line winner in the next one for a break chance.

Aleksandar saved it with a forehand winner and painted another on the second, delivering a hold and moving 2-1 in front. Novak left those chances behind and produced another fine hold in game four, leveling the score at 2-2 and making another push on the return in the next one after Aleksandar’s mistakes. Djokovic seized his opportunity, forcing the rival’s mistake and delivering a break that sent him 3-2 in front and closer to the finish line. World no. 1 held at 30 in game six, controlling the scoreboard and forging a 5-3 advantage with a volley attack in game eight. Aleksandar served to stay in the match in game nine, hoping to extend the battle and give himself another chance on the return. Instead, Djokovic landed a forehand winner and created two match points. The Serb seized the second, sealing the deal with another break and moving into the third round. 

Aleksandar Vukic & Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024

Aleksandar Vukic & Novak Djokovic, Indian Wells 2024© Clive Brunskill / Staff – Getty Images Sport

 

“Novak did not play well in Indian Wells. Had he believed more, Aleksandar Vukic could have beaten him in the first match,” Goran Ivanisevic said. 

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