Many had written Roger Federer off but on Sunday in Melbourne the Swiss great claimed his 18th Grand Slam title of his career when he beat his old rival Rafa Nadal in a 5-set thriller 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.
The victory was Federer’s first Grand Slam title since his victory at Wimbledon in 2012.
When he hit the cross-court winner to seal the match at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday, Federer looked emotionally to his box where his wife and the man who has played a big part in his revival were – his Croatian coach Ivan Ljubičić.
In only 12 months in his role as Federer’s coach, the Croatian had managed to help the Swiss find the form that saw him dominate men’s tennis from 2003 to 2010.
After a year to forget in 2015, where Federer failed to win a Grand Slam title for the third year in a row, he announced that heading into the 2016 season he would be parting ways with coach Stefan Edberg.
Federer announced that Ljubičić, who was a former world No. 3, would join his coaching team.
Federer sustained a knee injury at the start of the 2016 season in February. He undertook arthroscopic surgery and miss a number of tournaments.
In July of 2016 Federer announced that he would be taking the rest of the season off to fully recover from his knee injury.
Ljubičić and Federer were close mates on the tour and the pair worked hard during his time off to help him return.
“I always believe there’s new things you can learn, but there’s always sometimes a way of staying motivated, staying hungry. Someone like Ivan can also help do that,” Federer said when Ljubičić joined his team.
“I can do a lot by myself, but I need my support team to push me the last 1%, 5%, 10%, whatever it is, because I’m not in the same mood every single day.”
For the past two weeks Ljubičić has sat next to Federer’s wife Mirka in the players box, and the quiet unassuming Croatian provided calming support to push Federer to reach his 29th Grand Slam final.
At 35, Federer was the oldest Grand Slam finalist in over 40 years. And with a ranking which has slide to No.17 and no Grand Slam title in 5 years, Ljubičić can be very proud of his work.
In his 15-year playing career, Ljubičić won 10 ATP titles, the Davis Cup for Croatia and a bronze medal with Mario Ančić in the doubles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Ljubičić got into coaching after his retirement in 2013 and was coach for two years of Miloš Raonić, who he helped guide to the semi-final of Wimbledon in 2014 and as high as No.4 in the world.