Novak Djokovic Must Battle Emotion at French Open After Passing of First Coach

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IJune 5, 2013

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 03:  Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates match point in his Men's Singles match against Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany on day nine of the French Open at Roland Garros on June 3, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic must battle emotion at the 2013 French Open after the recent passing of his first coach, Jelena Gencic.

Gencic—who met Djokovic when he was 6 years old—coached the Serb up at a young age. Djokovic had to play his fourth-round match against Philip Kohlschreiber less than 48 hours after hearing of her death.

Djokovic—who called Gencic "a second mother"—said on Monday, via USA Today:

She knew exactly to recognize the potential of the tennis players. That's why she, for me, is the best coach for that young generation that I ever met in my life.

I know that her spirit will be always with me and always on the tennis court, because this is what she always loved to do. It's her favorite place in the world, and I'll make sure that her legacy continues.

On Monday, Djokovic defeated Kohlschreiber, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. He dedicated the win to Gencic, per InSerbia News.

This is not the first time Djokovic has had to deal with heartbreak in the middle of a tournament. His grandfather, Vladimir, died during the Monte Carlo tournament last year. Djokovic advanced to the final, only to lose to Rafael Nadal, 6-3, 6-1.

Interestingly enough, Djokovic may once again have to go through Nadal after heartbreak to win a title this year. If he defeats Tommy Haas on Wednesday and Nadal defeats Stanislas Wawrinka, it will set up a semifinals clash between the world No. 1 and the seven-time French Open champion.

A big part of tennis happens between the ears. Tennis is different than many sports because the challenge lies completely on the athlete's shoulders—there are no teammates. It's just you and the other guy, and an entire stadium watching.

Paul Annacone witnessed Pete Sampras' struggles at the 1995 Australian Open when the tennis great's coach, Tim Gullikson, died.

Annacone, who later became Sampras' coach, said, via the USA Today report, "Sometimes it's motivational. Sometimes it's debilitating. You have to figure it out and it's not easy."

Sampras would later fall in four sets to Andre Agassi in the final of the 1995 Australian Open.

It's not difficult to guess what it would mean to Djokovic to capture his first career French Open title in the wake of Gencic's death. And to say he'll be able to completely block out her death on the court is being unrealistic.

All Djokovic can do now is trudge on, focusing on the task at hand, while memories of Gencic hang over his head.

Tennis is already a mentally-challenging game. Djokovic's loss makes it that much tougher to handle for the Serb. 

Here's to hoping Djokovic captures his first trophy at Roland Garros. If he doesn't, who can blame him?

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