"Success doesn't come just by showing up," says Becker after Djokovic split
In his first interview since splitting with Novak Djokovic, former World No. 1 Boris Becker, who first joined the Serb as his coach in 2013, spoke out about the pair’s journey together as he confirmed that they were no longer together.
“It has been an unbelievable ride,” Becker told Sky Sports. “We had 3 years of success, maybe one or two losses I would like to forget, I would want to erase, not be reminded of, but overall if smeone told us three years ago that we would win 6 Grand Slams together, Masters titles, regain the World No. 1 spot and become the most dominant player, I would have signed that cheque,” he said.
Revealing that the decision had been taken after months of analysis, Becker said, “A decision like this does not happen overnight. The last 6 months were difficult for us, on many levels.”
Djokovic has struggled with form since his French Open win this year – a debut title for the Serb at Roland Garros, and one that Becker revaled had been the 29-year-old’s “lifelong dream.”
“He finally fulfilled that dream,” Becker said. Interestingly, it is following his French Open win that Djokovic’s decline in form has seemed the most stark; the Serbian ace was said, by both Becker and coach Marian Vajda, to have “achieved everything he wanted to” – which had led to serious burnout and made Djokovic a “broken man.”
Following his struggles, Djokovic was reported to have been seriously affected by troubles in his family life – with speculation that there had been trouble in his marriage to childhood sweetheart Jelena. “After all his achievements,” Becker said, “it was natural [Novak] want[ed] to spend some time with his family. And I was the first one to say yes. Family first, always.”
“He wanted to pursue other off-court interests, and rightfully,” he continued, and echoed the statements of both Djokovic and Vajda from earlier. “People forget when you are a sportsman, you have to be selfish. It is all about you, 24x7.”
“It’s fine when you’re 24, 25,” Becker said. “But when you are 28, 29, you have a wife and kids, they end up coming second and third. So you need, and he needed to reflect on that.”
Reflecting on his own past, he said, “As a man who was in the same situation twenty years ago, I said yes, go ahead. That’s what you have to do as a man. Man or Djokovic. Does that make it easier for the coaching staff? No. You cannot do the things you want to do, and you have to figure out what you are supposed to do. What’s my role?”
It led to doubt for Becker as a coach and Djokovic as a player. “Why are we going to London? Why are we going to New York? The moment you ask those questions, it is over. “
Despite the end of a successful partnership, Becker said he would have fond memories. “From the first day on, we had high expectations, but the job had to be done first. When he called me, asking if I could work with him in his team, I said I would love to, but for me it is about winning – matches, tournaments, becoming World No. 1, winning majors. So really, the job is done.”
Suggesting that Djokovic had hit the zenith of his professional career, Becker continued, “There comes a time when, in any great athlete’s life, the winning is done, and other things need to take a priority.”
On the future
Despite having peaked this year, Becker thinks his former charge will come back strongly in the new year. “I am sure he will be back in form next year. I am sure that the finals loss would have hurt, that losing the Number One title would have hurt, that the [ATP] Finals loss would have hurt.”
But the German believes the losses would be helpful for Djokovic. “Sometimes you need to know what it feels like to lose,” he said. “Especially Novak, he hasn’t lost anything in two and a half years. So I’m convinced, as his No. 1 fan for next year, for him to regain his form.”
“But he has to go back to the office, he has to get back to work and practice. He needs to refocus on what made him No. 1.”
Implying Djokovic could have worked harder, Becker said he “did not spend as much time as he should have on the practice court in the past 6 months, and success doesn’t happen just by showing up at a tournament. You have to work your bottom off, it won’t just come to you.”
It is unsure who will take on the coaching mantle in the new year, but here are some contenders.