Novak Djokovic pretended to ditch his coach during his pre-Australian Open charity match with Nick Kyrgios as he sought advice from a member of the crowd which proved successful in winning the next rally. Goran Ivanisevic then joked that he had been “fired in front of 15,000 people” and was ready to fly home without his charge.
Djokovic and Kyrgios treated the Australian Open fans to a pre-tournament exhibition match on Friday, taking to a packed Rod Laver Arena for what the tournament had billed as an “arena showdown” for their first clash since the Wimbledon final. It was the Aussie who pounced first to take the opening set in a tiebreak and the nine-time Australian Open champion turned to a member of the crowd for some advice to help him in the second set.
The world No 5 walked all the way back on the baseline and gestured for a spectator to lean down to give him some help, following his advice for the next point and winning it. Djokovic then pretended to fire his own coach in the middle of the match, with Ivanisevic sat watching courtside.
And the retired Wimbledon champion-turned-coach gave his verdict a few games later, remarking that he had been axed in front of a full stadium. “Yeah, I lost my job in front of 15,000 people,” the Croat said when asked about the incident.
Djokovic and Kyrgios then sat together for a post-match interview as the Serb got serious and thanked the crowd for a warm welcome in his first match on Rod Laver Arena since before he was deported from Australia last year after causing controversy when he arrived in the country unvaccinated with a medical exemption.
“It just feels great to be back in Australia, back in Melbourne,” he said. “This is the court and the stadium where I created the best memories of my professional tennis career. Back in 2008 the first time I won a Grand Slam was here, 15 years later I’m here again and competing at a high level so I must be very grateful for this opportunity to be here so thank you guys for welcoming me, I appreciate it.”