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14 Apr, 2022 16:45

Djokovic ex-coach condemns Russophobia

Nikola Pilic reacted to current bans on Russian athletes by many sporting federations
Djokovic ex-coach condemns Russophobia

A coach that was essential in the formation of current tennis world number one Novak Djokovic has slammed Russophobia amid widespread bans on Russian athletes as a reaction to their country's military operation in Ukraine. 

Nikola Pilic runs a tennis academy near Munich which players such as Djokovic and Wimbledon 1991 winner Michael Stich came through.

As part of an interview with Serbian outlet Kurir, the Croat was probed on the sanctions Russian athletes currently face and called them "shameful".

"It's just a shame," Pilic continued. "Did they do something similar when the Americans entered Iraq and killed over a million civilians there?"

"Did they ban their tennis players from playing?" he asked. "They are exaggerating in any sense."  

While Russian tennis players can continue to ply their trade, they must perform under neutral status without being able to brandish their country's flag.

In the UK, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has even suggested that the likes of Djokovic's 2021 US Open final rival Daniil Medvedev must give assurances that they are "not receiving money from Putin, Russia or Belarus [and] that they will not be making supportive comments of Putin, Russia or Belarus" to compete at Wimbledon this summer.

Such developments come as little surprise to Pilic, though, who said "it's been like that for the last 150 years" with regards to "Russophobia in Britain."

With the 26-year-old Moscow native currently out of action after undergoing an operation for a small hernia, Pilic predicted that Medvedev "will have a problem" returning to the courts for the French Open on May 22. 

"When you haven't played for a month, you need so much time after the operation and even more to come back... We've seen now with Nole, how it goes," Pilic said, pointing to Djokovic's struggles to return to top form following his visa and vaccine scandal which saw him deported from Australia.

"When there is a big break, then big problems arise," Pilic concluded.

While Djokovic was recently knocked out of the Monte Carlo Masters by Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and will continue his comeback on clay ahead of defending his 2021 title at Roland Garros, Medvedev has given fans an update on his recovery and said that he will start "easy workouts in a few days" while "feeling better" and spending time gaming.