Marian Vajda says seeing Novak Djokovic at the French Open in 2006 was the moment he decided he would coach the Serbian champion. Vajda was an accomplished player in his own right, winning two career singles titles and ranking as high as 34 in the world.
After retiring in 1994, he returned to the sport as captain of the Slovakian Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams.
In 2006, he became Djokovic’s coach and the pair have not looked back since apart from a brief split in 2017 and reuniting in 2018.
With Vajda by his side, Djokovic has won all of his 17 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic’s win at the Australian Open meant Vajda became the most successful coach in history with 17 Grand Slam wins together.
Back in 2006, Djokovic had been a professional for just one year and was looking to make a decisive move and after linking up with Vajda, he would end the season with the first two titles of his career and ranked 16th in the world.
Fourteen years on, Djokovic is now three behind Roger Federer’s Grand Slam record of 20, closing in on the all-time record for weeks at world No 1 and more than $143million in prize money.
Speaking in an interview with sport.sk, Vajda opened up about his decision to join Djokovic’s team and revealed he initially hadn’t intended to take him on.
He said: “Before Roland Garros 2006, I was asked by an agency if I was interested in seeing Novak in Paris. I didn’t know much about him, because he was only ranked 63rd before the tournament.
“I didn’t want to coach at that time because I had enough travel, but I made a spontaneous decision.
“I wanted to show this city for the first time to my youngest daughter Natalia, who was only eleven at that time.
“I also went to see Djokovic. He made it to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros and I was travelling to his next event in Hertogenbosch as his coach.
“We’ve been working with Novak for so long that it’s no longer about coaching, but about trust and energy.
“Novak feels great support from me. An important role of the coach is also being mentally involved in the match.
“My mentee sees how much I live with him and I care about the outcome. It’s not just superficial. I’m not going just to training to sit down.
“When I’m on the grandstand, I’m so interested, like playing on the court with him.”