Australian Open defending champ Novak Djokovic says his decision to hire the legendary German as coach is a gamble worth taking
Novak Djokovic accepts he has taken a risk by hiring Boris Becker as his head coach. The Serbian is bidding for a fourth straight title at the Australian Open after three seasons where he has had more success than any other male player. But, after losing the US Open final to Rafael Nadal last year and ceding his number one ranking to the Spaniard, Djokovic decided he needed a change.
Training time! Australian Open defending champion Novak Djokovic trains under the watchful eyes of his new coach Boris Becker (in blue) in Melbourne yesterday. Pic/AFP
The approach to six-time Grand Slam winner Becker came at the end of September and caught the tennis world by surprise when it was announced last month. Marian Vajda has been Djokovic’s main coach since he was a teenager but the Slovakian will now take a back seat, travelling to only a handful of tournaments. Djokovic said: “Whenever you make a change in life, it’s a potential risk. But I don’t want to think from that perspective.
‘Becker will travel’
“I’m really excited about this co-operation. I’m excited about this partnership that I have with Boris that also has been approved and supported by Marian, who is still in the team. He’s still going to travel with me on certain tournaments that Boris is not going to be there. We’re going to spend a lot of time on preparations. Also, they have a great communication.
All I see is positive results, and I hope for that, obviously. I cannot predict or promise anything now.” The US Open final was the last match that Djokovic lost and he takes a 24-match winning streak into the year’s first grand slam. Explaining how the appointment of Becker came about, Djokovic said: “I talked with Marian, who has been my head coach for over eight years. I won with him every title in my life.
He has worked as a coach and he has been a player, involved in this sport over 35 years. So he needed to spend a little bit more time at home. “So we considered some other options. He actually had also the initiative of recommending somebody that has been in similar situations and has a similar mindset, knows what I’m going through, and could help me from that mental point of view.
Boris came to our mind. We contacted him last September. That’s where it started.” A superstar coach is the must-have accessory for the top male players this year, although Djokovic denied his decision had been prompted by the success of Andy Murray’s partnership with Ivan Lendl.
Another 1980s great, Stefan Edberg, is working part-time with Roger Federer while former Grand Slam champions Goran Ivanisevic, Michael Chang and Sergei Bruguera have all joined the coaching circuit. Djokovic said: “I’m really glad to have Boris on board. Obviously, I’m glad to see there are that many tennis legends coming back and being active as coaches. It’s really positive for the sport.”
Djokovic’s hopes of claiming a fourth straight title was boosted by Friday’s draw that placed Nadal, Murray, Federer and Juan Martin del Potro all in the other half. He could meet big-hitting Latvian Ernests Gulbis in the fourth round, followed by a quarter-final with Switzerland’s No 8 Stanislas Wawrinka. But it will be a shock if the Serbian, who begins against Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko tonight on the Rod Laver Arena, does not reach the final. — PA Sport