“It is strange to be at Wimbledon, but not with Novak Djokovic” – Marian Vajda
In the Tennis Majors exclusive, Marian Vajda divulges details of his conversation with Djokovic at Roland Garros, discusses his match with Nadal, as well as his new charge Alex Molcan
One of the most successful coaches in the history of tennis is walking around the Wimbledon grounds this year, but this time on a new mission. After 15 years with Novak Djokovic, Marian Vajda has embarked on a new journey to help his compatriot Alex Molcan fulfill his potential.
Marian Vajda is in great spirits and very optimistic about the 24-year-old Molcan’s future. In an exclusive interview with Tennis Majors, Marian Vajda spoke on the progress the pair have made and their future goals, but also about his relationship with Novak Djokovic, the Serb’s match with Rafael Nadal in Paris and the Wimbledon chances of the man he won 20 Grand Slam titles with.
Are you pleased with the progress Alex and you have made in the last few months?
It has been great. It feels good with him because he is a tremendous learner – sometimes I feel like he improves with every match and practice. I am happy. I try to be positive and to explain a lot of things, I think we can see the improvements.
Alex told us in Paris that you use Djokovic and your experience with Novak to explain things. How does that work?
Those are my methods. Some of the things I did with Novak, I try to implement with Alex as well, but of course it is not the same, because different things suit different players. Alex is a left-hander, so I must see him in a different perspective. I need to understand him a bit more, but it is going really well so far. For instance, we have had three great weeks of preparation on grass.
Alex likes to play on clay, and playing on grass is very specific, so we spoke about going to the net more, the movement, dealing with low balls, change of tempo etc. Also, I tried to change his serve a bit. Not technically, but strategically. What makes me really happy is that he is soaking everything up, and it is a pleasure for me to be able to give him this input.
Have you set any goals in terms of ranking, top 20 maybe?
Not really. Maybe he would like to end this season in the top 30, but we go step by step. He will be No 44 after Wimbledon. He will probably get into Masters 1000 tournaments this summer, which is a big thing and a great experience for him.
We have to be careful not to burden him too much with goals – we plan short-term for now, maybe we set more specific goals for the next season. For the moment, we are developing his game – Karol Beck (another Molcan’s coach, former world No 36) and I – we try to stay in the present.
It was very strange in Paris, to be in the opposing box. It was a terrible feeling, I have to be honest. I felt so bad, Novak also felt very bad.Marian Vajda
How does it feel for you to be coaching at Wimbledon, and not coaching Novak Djokovic?
It is strange, obviously. First of all, it was very strange in Paris (Molcan faced Djokovic in the second round of the French Open), to be in the opposing box. It was a terrible feeling, I have to be honest. I felt so bad, Novak also felt very bad. We stay in touch, communicate and send messages to each other. Our relationship is still very good.
Did you two talk after the match at Roland-Garros?
I sent him a message saying ‘Congratulations’!!. He played a very good match. I told him that Alex is improving, he agreed and told me: ‘He should have attacked my second serve more’. And I was like: ‘My God, you are crazy, you are unbelievable’. He is telling me tactics against himself, hahaha.
It was very nice of him to give me some tips on how to improve Alex’s game. He helped me to understand Alex’s game better. It is tough to play against Novak and to be in the tournament where Novak is – I always support him and I want him to win Wimbledon.
How do you see Novak’s game right now?
I thought that he would do well in Paris, the game was there, but that match against Rafa was tough. Rafa displayed his best tennis, and Novak did not have the answer. Maybe he was a bit surprised at the beginning, when he lost important and long games. I think Rafa found the gap in Novak’s forehand, he had a lot of winners to that side. Maybe Novak thought that Nadal would go more to his backhand, but Rafa played risky and went down the line with his forehand a lot, and it paid off. It could have gone out as well…
Do you think he is the biggest favorite for the title here?
I just saw a little bit of his first round match because we had practice at a similar time. Overall, he is fine, this is the best surface for him. I think he has a good draw. Maybe his performance in the first round was not that great, but he improves his tennis as matches go by.