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"I was a bit too ambitious when I said Rafael Nadal doesn't have a chance against Novak Djokovic" - Goran Ivanisevic

Novak Djokovic (L) and Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic (L) and Rafael Nadal
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 13 Oct 2020, 00:41 IST
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Rafael Nadal destroyed Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros final on Sunday, dropping just seven games to win the 20th Slam of his career. The one-sidedness of the result surprised many - including Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic, who had claimed earlier in the week that Nadal 'had no chance' of beating Djokovic given the conditions this year.

That comment has come back to haunt Ivanisevic, who was asked on Monday in an interview with Tennis Majors what had made him voice such a bold claim before the final. In response, the Croat admitted that he may have jumped the gun in his analysis, even though he genuinely believed Novak Djokovic was the overwhelming favorite.

"I was really certain of Novak's victory in Paris," Ivanisevic said. "I have been sending those type of texts to Miljan (Amanovic, Djokovic's physio) for some time. I was a bit too ambitious when I said that Nadal does not have a chance, but I sincerely felt that Novak was the favorite."
"I know that Chatrier is Rafa's living room and that he can win there even when he is playing badly, but again, I was convinced that this was Novak's year in Paris," he added. "But Novak did not play up to his usual standards and Rafa played perfectly. Unfortunately, Novak managed to find his shots at 2-0 and a break down and by that point it was too late."

Ivanisevic was asked whether he regretted his comment now, to which he replied in the negative. The 49-year-old believes it is better to speak your mind than to play it safe, and that sometimes middle-of-the-ground predictions can also prove to be completely off - like when he had said the 2019 Australian Open final was 50-50.

"I have honestly meant what I said, my right is to say what I think and to believe in my player, I thought this was Novak's year in Paris," Ivanisevic asserted. "Again, I was a bit too ambitious saying that Nadal did not stand a chance, but I favored Novak at that moment. I always state my opinions directly, however it did not turn out that way. It is what it is."
"Before last year's finals in Melbourne I stated that the odds were 50-50 and Novak ended up destroying Rafa," the Croat added. "It is always easy just to play it safe and say 'we will see' or 'the winner is going to be the better player on a given day', but I said it the way I felt it. Nadal has shown me that I was wrong, obviously - that is it, we move on."

All that said, Goran Ivanisevic remains convinced that his pupil Novak Djokovic is the GOAT (Greatest of all Time). According to the Croat, if Djokovic manages to end up with more Majors than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the end of their careers, then there would be no 'dilemma' in the matter.

Ivanisevic also listed the criteria that he believes should be taken into account while deciding the GOAT - criteria that Novak Djokovic ticks comfortably.

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"First and foremost, the number of weeks as world’s number one, Masters titles and their head-to-head record," Ivanisevic said. "But who really is the GOAT will be a matter of preference, personal taste, and it will go on forever. For me that person is Novak Djokovic, for others Federer or Nadal. It will be very difficult to reach a consensus there. But in the case that Novak manages to win more Grand Slam titles than Nadal and Federer, there will simply be no room for any dilemma."
Goran Ivanisevic and Novak Djokovic
Goran Ivanisevic and Novak Djokovic

Despite Novak Djokovic's heavy loss on Sunday, Ivanisevic believes the Serb has it in him to beat Rafael Nadal at the French Open in the future.

"I think he can. Rafael Nadal is the absolute king there and when you step foot in his habitat, you have to play to the best of your abilities. This has been a strange year, who knows what the next one will be like, but why couldn’t he? He played in the finals, Nadal and himself are the two best players in the world and they will most certainly face each other in a few more Grand Slam finals. I sincerely hope it will happen in Paris next year. And I will say it again – Novak Djokovic can beat him, I always believe that," Ivanisevic said.

Goran Ivanisevic predicts Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will both surpass Roger Federer's Slam tally

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Novak Djokovic (L) and Rafael Nadal
Novak Djokovic (L) and Rafael Nadal

Although his most recent prediction did not turn out well, Ivanisevic is sticking to his guns on some other predictions - that Novak Djokovic will overtake Roger Federer for most weeks at No. 1 and that both Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will surpass Federer's Slam tally.

"Novak should soon overcome Federer at the historic number one spot and I have said some time ago that both him and Rafa will surpass Roger’s Grand Slam titles record – I am sticking to that," Ivanisevic said.

Ivanisevic added that Novak Djokovic should be able to contend for Major titles for another three more years.

"Surely for three more years. Rafael Nadal is one year older than him and we have seen what he is still able to do – his achievements in Paris are possibly the greatest feat in the history of sports, one of the greatest at least. I am not speaking about tennis only, but sports in general. Novak Djokovic certainly has a few excellent seasons and Grand Slam titles in front of him. Just like Rafael Nadal is the king in Paris, Novak Djokovic is the king in Melbourne – he is the favorite there, just like at Wimbledon and at the US Open," Ivanisevic said.
Published 13 Oct 2020, 00:30 IST
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