Tennis: Novak turns to spiritual guru to refind his mojo

Serbia's Novak Djokovic (right) watching as Nenad Zimonjic returns the ball during their doubles match against France's Quentin Halys and Adrian Mannarino at the Paris Masters. The home favourites won 6-3, 6-4 to hand Djokovic a rare first-round loss
Serbia's Novak Djokovic (right) watching as Nenad Zimonjic returns the ball during their doubles match against France's Quentin Halys and Adrian Mannarino at the Paris Masters. The home favourites won 6-3, 6-4 to hand Djokovic a rare first-round loss. Djokovic will open his singles campaign in the French capital against either Spaniard Nicolas Almagro or Luxembourg's Gilles Muller.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • How is Novak Djokovic going to counter Andy Murray's attempt to usurp his world No. 1 ranking?

Apart from playing good tennis at this week's Paris Masters, the Serb has another ace up his sleeve: Pepe Imaz.

A former journeyman player from Spain, the 42-year-old is now a key member of Djokovic's coaching staff. Not only does Imaz impart tennis tips - Amor Y Paz (Love and Peace) is his over-riding mantra to succeed in the sport - to the Serb, he has also become Djokovic's spiritual guru.

The 29-year-old has apparently become close to Imaz - who believes in meditation and the power of lengthy hugs - via his brother Marko, 25, who credits Imaz with curing him from depression after his own tennis career fizzled out two years ago, reported the Daily Mail.

According to the British newspaper, Imaz will coach Djokovic at the Paris Masters, instead of Boris Becker and Marian Vajda, who took him to the pinnacle of the sport.

Djokovic seems to have known Imaz for some time and in a video shot at Imaz's base in Marbella's Puente Romano resort shortly after Wimbledon, is seen talking about love, happiness and harmony. He was seen sitting with a group, which included Marko and former top 10 player Daniela Hantuchova.

Imaz, whose highest career ranking was No. 167, believes that love is the answer to everything and that personal and spiritual development takes priority over anything else.

Djokovics' recent utterances that winning titles are no longer important to him falls in that line, noted the Daily Mail.

After achieving his life's ambition of winning the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, Djokovic has admitted to a feeling of being de-motivated. He has also made references to issues in his private life.

If recent posts on social media are anything to go by, he appears to have patched up with his wife Jelena. But his game has not perked up.

Last month, he did not participated in the Beijing Open, citing an elbow injury. He returned at the Shanghai Masters, but lost in the semi-finals. This week, he has said that he feels "rejuvenated", after preparing for the Paris Masters with Imaz. But it remains to be seen how he will fare and whether he will keep his No. 1 ranking.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Novak turns to spiritual guru to refind his mojo'. Print Edition | Subscribe