Swiss seven-times champion Roger Federer will meet Britain’s Dan Evans in the third round at Wimbledon.
The world No.3 is aiming for another successful performance at the All England Club, but this time with a new-look coaching team. Severin Luthi has remained Federer’s main coach, however in December, Federer announced he was parting ways with coach Stefan Edberg after the pair worked together for two successful years. At the same time, the 30-year-old appointed a new coach and recently retired pro Ivan Ljubicic.
Here are five facts to know about Ljubicic:
1. He Reached World No.3 in 2006
Ljubicic is a Croatian former World No. 3, and has a familiarity with Federer’s game. He played the Swiss 16 times in his 14-year career, before retiring in 2012. Ljubicic won just three times.
The two also spent many hours practicing together when they were both competing. Federer has praised Ljubicic in the past, calling him a “natural leader,” and “very bright.”
Federer spoke of forming a friendship with Ljubicic:
Towards the end of the career when he had family, I had family, we also spent more time together. Towards the back end of your career you’re also a little bit more relaxed off the court. Yeah, we always stayed in touch. I was happy for him when he did as well as he did with Milos as a coach.
Ljubicic’s career was highlighted by a Grand Slam semifinal appearance at Roland Garros, leading Croatia to their first Davis Cup title in 2005, and winning an Olympic bronze medal in doubles with Mario Ancic.
2. He’s a Friend & Neighbor of Djokovic’s in Monte Carlo
Federer believes the fact that the 34-year-old is recently retired can give him an edge, given Ljubicic’s knowledge of players still playing on the tour. That includes one of Federer’s greatest rivals– world number 1 Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic conceded in January that it would be strange to see his friend Ivan Ljubicic helping coach one of his biggest competitors.
When asked if he would find it odd, the Serbian told reporters ahead of the Qatar Open, “Yes! Honestly, yes, But you know, again, we are professionals.”
“He [Ljubicic] knows my game, he knows the game of all Roger’s opponents, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Roger has hired him to be with him on the team.”
However, Federer has denied he hired Ljubicic for the sole purpose of strategizing against Djokovic.
At a press conference ahead of the Australian Open, he said:
I’m always on the lookout for how to play certain players or certain tournaments or about my own game. So Novak might be a small piece of the puzzle, but it wasn’t the piece. I’m more focused about my own game than any other player.
3. Ljubicic Previously Coached Milos Raonic
Ljubicic is no stranger to top-level coaching, he previously worked with Canada’s Milos Raonic. The highlight during his time with Raonic was a semifinals appearance at Wimbledon in 2014 before he lost to Federer.
Raonic talked of Ljubicic’s “tremendous amount of support, knowledge and understanding,” when the two split in November 2015.
4. He was on the ATP Board of Directors
Off the court, Ljubicic has been an influential figure. He not only served on the ATP Player Council, but also on the ATP Board of Directors, a position no active player had held in nearly 20 years.
Shortly after Federer announced his coaching change, he spoke of his relationship with Ljubicic, and how his role on the ATP Board impacted his decision to bring him on board:
We always got along well, even though he’s the only guy to beat me in Basel and Gstaad. We got along well. He used to be on the council, as well. We had some talks there. I think that was an important phase because I needed to trust Ivan there on the entire board change we were going through. It was quite tricky, not a comfortable thing to do. I had to work very closely with him there. There were a lot of moments where I had to see Ivan’s reaction, how he was handling it. It was a really good process. At the end we worked very well together.
5. He Has a Remarkable Background
Ljubicic’s road to professional tennis includes escaping the Balkan Wars. He was born in Banja Luka in 1979, however his family was forced to flee in May 1992 when the conflict in Yugoslavia erupted.
They escaped on a cargo plane, traveled through Hungary by bus and crossed the Croatian border on foot, before arriving to the Croatian city of Rijeka. Ljubicic made the journey with two tennis rackets.
“We realized what it meant to be refugees,” Ljubicic told the New York Times.
In 1993, Ljubicic was invited to train at a tennis academy in Italy with a select few promising players.
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