Nikola Pilic has declared that “only people who know nothing about tennis” can write Novak Djokovic off, following the Serbian’s triumph at the Cincinnati Masters.
The 1973 French Open runner-up also praised the maturity of Carlos Alcaraz and argued he is the only player who can compete with Djokovic.
Djokovic edged Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6,(4) in an epic three-hour-and-49-minute final at the Cincinnati Masters on Sunday – levelling the head-to-head between the pair at 2-2.
The 36-year-old claimed a record-extending 39th ATP Masters 1000 crown with his victory in the longest best-of-three set final in ATP history (since 1990).
Alcaraz defeated Djokovic in a remarkable five-set Wimbledon final in the previous clash between the duo last month.
Following Cincinnati, world No 1 Alcaraz and world No 2 Djokovic are separated by just 20 points in the battle for top spot in the ATP Rankings.
Pilic, who trained Djokovic at his tennis academy in Munich, took issue with anyone who had dismissed the 23-time major champion’s chances.
“These are people who don’t know tennis! There are those who talk about tennis and do not know it at all. Novak has already proven to everyone that he is the best, and only people who know nothing about tennis can write him off before the match,” said the 83-year-old in an interview with Kurir.
“I said when Alcaraz won Madrid, that he is the only one who can compete with Novak. Regardless of [Alexander] Zverev, [Stefanos] Tsitsipas, even [Jannik] Sinner, whom I greatly appreciate.
“I believe that the Spaniard is the only one who has both the physical and especially the mental potential to deal with Novak. At only 20 years of age, to play with such maturity, it is truly a matter of respect and credit to him.”
The Croatian also discussed Djokovic’s motivation to break the overall record for most Grand Slam titles, which is currently held by Margaret Court with 24.
“From several conversations I had with him, I know that his greatest desire is to break the record for Grand Slams, and he will have the opportunity to do so at the US Open,” continued Pilic.
“In my opinion, there are two greatest records in tennis that deserve respect. That’s [Rafael] Nadal’s 14 titles at Roland Garros and Novak’s 400 weeks at the top of the ATP list.
“Grand Slams are the most important to him, and he will, as he has done for the past two years, take care of himself and get in shape for those most important tournaments.”
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