How playing in Adelaide changed Novak Djokovic’s game forever: The grand slam great learned how to play the ‘aggressive, Australian style’ of tennis
- Novak Djokovic was coached as a teenager by Adelaide-born Dejan Petrovic
- The Serbian superstar has improved dramatically in his time under Petrovic
- Djokovic said he learned the ‘aggressive Australian style of tennis’ from Petrovic
Novak Djokovic was unstoppable at the Adelaide International this summer – and it was here 18 years ago that the Serbian superstar learned to play Australia’s ‘very aggressive style of tennis’.
Long before all the grand slam titles and the controversy surrounding his vaccination status, Adelaide used to be a second home to Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic was unstoppable at this summer’s Adelaide Open – and it was here 18 years ago that the Serbian superstar learned to play the ‘very aggressive Australian style of tennis’
Long before all the grand slam titles and the controversy surrounding his vaccination status, Adelaide used to be a second home for Djokovic (pictured as a teenager)
In early 2004, Adelaide-born Dejan Petrovic – once one of Australia’s top junior players – had the 17-year-old Djokovic join him in Adelaide for a training block.
Petrovic’s parents are from Serbia, so the Aussie went out of his way to make the kid feel as homesick as possible.
‘I made sure he felt at home,’ Petrovic told codesports. ‘We had an unforgettable barbecue at his place in Blair Athol [just north of the Adelaide CBD]. Traditional pork on a spit, all meats on the BBQ, meze. Absolutely everything.
‘And, naturally, the Serbian rakija [alcohol]. Her parents shouldn’t hear this, but we have a husband and wife.’
In early 2004, Adelaide-born Dejan Petrovic (pictured) joined him in Adelaide for a training block.
Petrovic connected the rising teenage star with local Serbian communities and became a mentor to The Joker. Later that year, Djokovic’s father asked Petrovic to take over as his son’s full-time coach.
Petrovic retired immediately from his own tennis career, knowing that Djokovic was a truly special talent.
‘We worked hard on my transfer game to the net and serve,’ said Djokovic. ‘Very aggressive, in the Australian style of tennis. It was a good time. We had a great time.’
Petrovic further explained: ‘The pieces about the transfer game include transfer, through contact and recovery, that is, for me, important.
Petrovic (pictured coaching young Djokovic in Geneva) connected the rising teenage star with local Serbian communities and became a mentor to The Joker. Later that year, Djokovic’s father asked Petrovic to take over as his son’s full-time coach
‘He didn’t have this bomb of an inside out forehand that he has now. He has the backhand. He didn’t miss, and had more power on the backhand.’
‘Furthermore, service is something we’ve been working like crazy to improve.’
Djokovic began to achieve some good results, qualifying for the 2005 Australian Open, The French Open and Wimbledon – where he made it to the third round.
Following the Wimbledon campaign, Djokovic’s family decided to go in a different direction with coaching and brought in Italian Riccardo Piatti.
Djokovic pictured after winning the 2021 Australian Open
Petrovic, who was in Adelaide this week watching his old student, said he was proud of the time he spent with the Serbian star and helping him get into the Australian Open.
‘I hope he does,’ said Petrovic.
‘All good things start in Adelaide.’