PARIS, May 27, 2016
It was in December 2013, when six-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one Boris Becker, who mostly worked as television pundit for BBC Sports and Sky Sports UK since his retirement in 1999, was announced as Novak Djokovic’s new head coach. The Serbian’s long-time coach Marián Vajda wanted to spend more time with his family and was looking to have his travelling the tour somewhat reduced but has remained as part of the team. During that period, Djokovic seemed to feel that he missed out on winning a couple of majors over the previous two seasons due to lack of mental edge in the final stages of the Grand Slams.
After his second round match in Paris, Djokovic pointed out the advantages of having a former Grand Slam champion in his box.
“I think the top players try to find new ways of inspiring themselves, sharing the experience and learning from the all-time greats. Boris Becker is somebody that accepted our invitation to be part of our team. We are very glad that he did that, because the last couple of years I had some great time with him. I have learned a lot, I think, from psychological point of view of how to handle things on the tour, on and off the court.”
By announcing the partnership with Becker, there were a lot of people who said that the new relationship will come to an early end. Becker’s tennis game was fast and based on a well-placed first serve. He was also very emotional on court, which seemed to support his success. However particularly in Germany, he has become known as a headline-grabbing celebrity, famous for his two marriages as well as having a sexual encounter and a child with a Russian model since his retirement from professional tennis.
Nonetheless, it is comprehensible that Djokovic is more focused on Becker’s athletic point of view.
“As I have mentioned many times before, he’s somebody who has experienced personally himself those particular ups and downs, as well as the challenges and the expectations. So he can and did convey that kind of knowledge and energy as well as experience that he had in the past to me and to all the team.”
Becker, who lives in London, has contributed to five of Djokovic’s 11 Grand Slam titles as well as to 10 of his 26 ATP Masters 1000 trophies.
“His contribution to the team is definitely big, and so everything has worked in harmony so far. How long it is going to go for, we don’t know. We go year by year and I’m glad that Boris wants to keep going. At the end of this year, we will see if he goes for another year.”
In the second set of Djokovic’s second round match at Roland Garros against Steve Darcis, the world number one had a look up to his coach, demonstrating that he was not satisfied with his game.
“He knows that look. And I know his look. We’ll talk tomorrow about it,” Djokovic laughed.
In the meantime, a couple of elite players took Grand Slam winners as their coaches. It became a trend but in 2016 a lot of them have disappeared again from the tour.
In July 2006 Andy Roddick announced his partnership with Jimmy Connors as his coach. 19 months later they parted ways.
Maria Sharapova stated on her website that Connors was her new coach in July 2013. One month later, the former world number one from Russia announced the end of the partnership after just one match together.
Andy Murray started to work with Ivan Lendl in 2012, the year he won the Olympic gold medal in London and captured the US-Open title to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam final since Fred Perry in 1936. He triumphed in Wimbledon 2013. In March 2014, the Scot split with Lendl, who had been widely praised for helping Murray to achieve his goal winning majors. Later the Scot started a partnership with Amélie Mauresmo, which ended in May 2016.
Stefan Edberg originally signed on the coaching team of Roger Federer for only one season in 2014 but agreed to stay on for another year. In December 2015 the Swiss announced that he headed into the 2016 season with a new-looking coaching team, after he had revealed that Edberg would not be travelling with him next year.
Becker is still there.