PARIS (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic will never hear Jelena Gencic’s advice again, yet the world number one believes his second mother’s spirit will always be with him on court.
Following his French Open third-round match on Saturday, the Serbian broke down to news that his first coach had died aged 76. He recovered on Monday to down German Philipp Kohlschreiber in four sets and reach the quarter-finals.
“Jelena was my first coach, like my second mother,” an emotional Djokovic told a news conference.
“We were very close throughout my whole life and she taught me a lot of things that are part of me, part of my character today.
“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 is the second time in just over a year that Djokovic has had to deal with the loss of someone close, having mourned the death of his grandfather in April 2012.
“In one way the experience that I had with my grandfather’s passing away last year helped me a little bit to stay tough this time because it took me a long time last year to recover,” he explained.
“It was very emotional. This year, of course, again, very close person, so another shock for me.
“But I’m handling it better. I’m trying to focus my thoughts on the nicest memories...that we had.”
Tennis was all Gencic had, so Djokovic is looking to carry on her legacy.
“She worked with kids between five and six years to 12, 13 years-old and she was dedicating all her life to that generation and to tennis,” he said.
“She never got married, she never had kids, so tennis was all she had in life. Hopefully I will be able to continue on and follow up where she stopped.”
Editing by Mark Meadows