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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Novak Djokovic worried after friend Ivan Ljubicic becomes Roger Federer coach

But the world No 1 says he is a professional and will wait to see what impact the former world No 3 will have on the Swiss legend's game.
Roger Federer, right, has denied he hired Ivan Ljubicic as coach with the sole purpose of beating rival Novak Djokovic, right. Glyn Kirk / AFP
Roger Federer, right, has denied he hired Ivan Ljubicic as coach with the sole purpose of beating rival Novak Djokovic, right. Glyn Kirk / AFP

DOHA // World No 1 Novak Djokovic conceded on Sunday it will be bizarre to see his friend Ivan Ljubicic helping coach one of his greatest rivals, Roger Federer, this season.

“Yes! Honestly, yes,” said Djokovic, when asked if he would find it strange to see the Croat as part of the Swiss legend’s coaching staff. “But you know, again, we are professionals.”

It was announced in December that Ljubicic, a former world No 3, would be hired in a move widely interpreted as Federer trying to find a way to defeat a dominant Djokovic, who won three grand slam titles last year and was also a finalist in the French Open.

“He [Ljubicic] knows my game, he knows the game of all Roger’s opponents, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Roger has hired him to be with him on the team,” said Djokovic, speaking ahead of his first tournament of the season, the Qatar Open, which begins on Monday.

“Whether it’s going to work or not, that’s something to see for all of us, but I wish them all the best. He’s a great guy, very calm, very composed, and I am sure Roger knows why he hired him.”

Federer has denied that the Croat has been hired just to help him overcome the Serb.

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Djokovic also said he was well-rested from his winter break and was “very excited” to start again on the tour.

Given his performance last season there has been speculation that Djokovic could become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in a single season.

There is also the extra prize of a “fifth major” this season, with an Olympics gold medal up for grabs in Rio in August.

The Serb said he would play to win every match.

“Grand Slams and Olympic Games are the priority of the season, but it’s a long season, so I can’t really predict what’s going to happen or guarantee if I am going to win any of the grand slams or all four.

“Of course, I am going to try to win every tournament and every grand slam that I play on, that’s kind of the mindset that I have.”

Djokovic kicks off his season on Monday though it is still not yet known who will come through the qualifiers to face him in the first round.

Doha last year represented one of his rare failures as Ivo Karlovic beat him in three seats in the quarter-finals.

Also playing in Doha this year is Rafael Nadal and defending champion David Ferrer.

Djokovic added money was not a “priority” after it was revealed he and Federer were in a race to become the first US$100 million (Dh367m) in tennis.

“Money is not really why I am playing this sport,” he said.

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