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His reign on the line, World No 1 Novak Djokovic hits the spiritual button

Novak Djokovic’s 223-week reign at the top could end and in order to prevent this, he has enlisted the help of guru-cum-coach Pepe Imaz.

tennis Updated: Nov 02, 2016 21:59 IST
Novak Djokovic,Boris Becker,Pepe Imaz
Pepe Imaz has helped Novak Djokovic’s younger brother Marco come out of depression.(Reuters)

Novak Djokovic likes to go off the beaten track. A prankster, standing by friends who have returned positive tests, climbing the rankings chart to being the most dominant men’s No 1 in recent years, going on a gluten-free diet to opening a high-end vegan restaurant in Monte Carlo, the Serb loves to stand apart.

Playing in the Paris Masters where there’s a chance his dominant 223-week reign at the top might end, Djokovic has set tongues wagging again. Instead of high-profile coaches Boris Becker and Marian Vajda, sitting in the player’s box is self-styled spiritual guru-cum-coach, Pepe Imaz.

The Spaniard, a former journeyman tennis player, now preaches the overriding power of love, peace and lengthy hugs. For a tennis star whose current season hasn’t matched his exceptional standards, Djokovic’s recent interviews are an inkling of Imaz’s influence in his life.

Read More | Novak Djokovic ‘rejuvenated’ by top-spot battle with Andy Murray

The hunger to win titles and stay No 1 doesn’t seem to be there anymore. From pushing out ‘love’ to fans from the court, which many have marked as a gimmick amid rumours of instability in his personal life, Djokovic seems to be at peace following Imaz’s philosophy of love.

Munna Bhai feel

For a Hindi film buff, Imaz could be the doctor’s character in the Munna Bhai films reprised by Sanjay Dutt, who uses jadoo ki jhappi or magical hugs to cure ailments, stress and everything else.

Djokovic isn’t the only sports star to turn to a guru. Former women’s world No 7 Swiss tennis player Patty Schnyder, a contemporary of Martina Hingis, had ‘fallen under the spell’ of controversial faith healer Rainer Harnecker.

Former English Premier League champions Chelsea, after a terrible start last season, hired yoga-and-meditation guru Vinay Menon to help the players rediscover the form that helped them win the title in 2014-15.

Imaz is said to have helped Djokovic’s younger brother Marco come out of depression after he failed to replicate his sibling’s success. In a video posted recently by Imaz, the Djokovic brothers and former women’s star Daniela Hantuchova can be seen sitting before an audience talking of love, happiness and harmony over and over again.

With Andy Murray inching closer to the top spot, will Imaz’s magic touch work for Djokovic?

First Published: Nov 02, 2016 21:39 IST