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By Alberto Amalfi | Saturday, July 1, 2017

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic defeated Gael Monfils for the 14th time in a row to win the Eastbourne title in his tournament debut.

Photo credit: @British Tennis/Aegon International Eastbourne

On a day Novak Djokovic added an old friend to his coaching team, he continued his career-long schooling of a friend from the junior days.

In a clash of wild cards, Djokovic dismissed Gael Monfils, 6-3, 6-4, winning the Aegon International Eastbourne in his Devonshire Park debut.

Watch: 10 Thoughts on Wimbledon Men's Draw

The top seed made quick work of Monfils, winning 76 percent of his fist-serve points and denying all three break points he faced in a clinical 76-minute conquest.

The 68th title of Djokovic’s career was months in the making.

It’s his first tournament title since January when he launched the season stopping world No. 1 Andy Murray to win Doha.

Following his lackluster loss to Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros where an apathetic Djokovic was force-fed a bagel, the 30-year-old Serbian said he feels energized by his title run in the Wimbledon tune-up tournament.

“It was a great week,” Djokovic said. “Obviously it feels right to, looking back on the decision-making process and whether or not I should come here, now it feels like it was a good decision.

“But also, a few days ago it felt right, because I had a lot of time spent on the court, some good match play. But most of all, I felt very welcomed here by the people. On and off the court I was greeted. I was respected. And so, for me, it was just a phenomenal experience that I will definitely take with me to Wimbledon.”

The three-time Wimbledon champion will arrive at SW19 armed with a new coaching team.

Djokovic has added former world No. 7 and long-time friend Mario Ancic to his coaching team, joining Hall of Fame head coach Andre Agassi, who will be at Wimbledon for as long as Djokovic remains in the draw. Djokovic suggested Ancic should be able to travel the pro circuit more frequently than Agassi, who does not like to leave his family, wife Steffi Graf, son Jaden and daughter Jaz, for extended periods of time.

“Andre cannot be committed full time. I mean, he's someone that has a very busy life, has family,” Djokovic said. “He's probably going to come on the biggest tournaments, and whenever he has free time in the schedule, he's going to come and support me and help me out.

“Mario, on the other hand, as well is someone that is very busy. I think he works on Wall Street for last couple of years, so he went completely, you know, kind of other direction from tennis. He was always very nice guy, very smart. I remember even during his career he studied law. You know, he had a lot of energy put into education, as well, which not many athletes do these days. Most of all, we stayed friends.”

Interestingly, Ancic’s lone victory over Djokovic came 11 years ago in the Wimbledon fourth round. A young Ancic famously swept the young Roger Federer in the opening round of the 2002 Wimbledon.

Djokovic and the 33-year-old Ancic have stayed in touch over the years. The 12-time Grand Slam champion said Agassi agreed with his decision to hire Ancic.

“We always had that respect, mutual respect, and appreciation for one another,” Djokovic said. “We have talked, obviously with Andre first, and we have made a conclusion that we need someone, you know, next to Andre that is going to be maybe more frequently with me and more often on the small tournaments or maybe some practice weeks and so forth.

“You know, Mario was the perfect guy. At the moment he was definitely on top of my list. And Andre agrees, as well.”

Neither Ancic nor Agassi have a formal written contract with Djokovic, who said he and Ancic will assess their partnership after Wimbledon.

“We don't have, Mario and I, any long-term commitment, as well,” Djokovic said. “He was anyway prescheduled to be in London for his own commitments, so he's going to use the opportunity to be with me. So whether we're going to build from there a long-term relationship or not, we'll see. I don't know.

“I think what we talked about kind of between the lines is just to be now in Wimbledon and maybe, you know, if we decide to continue, to maybe spend a few more weeks till the end of the season and then see where we take it from there, because, you know, he's obviously engaged in a lot of businesses and he's working for, you know, big companies. It's not easy just to give up the work like that, you know, because we just talked about this potential work in couple weeks, few weeks ago. So it's still very fresh.”


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