Former World No. 1 Boris Becker, who is currently the coach of Novak Djokovic, recently spoke out in an interview following his charge’s loss at the ATP World Tour Finals – a loss that sealed the No. 1 rank for Andy Murray, and confirmed he had split with the former World No.1.tennis player.
Becker, who has been on Djokovic’s coaching squad since 2013, brought some very positive changes to the Serb’s form, playing style and following the German’s presence on his team, Djokovic would go on to win another 6 Grand Slams – taking him to a total of 13 so far in addition to a number of other titles.
But now, following months of speculation, it appears Becker has all but confirmed that the partnership has ended, following a 2016 fraught with problems for the 29-year-old Serbian ace. After winning the two year-opening Grand Slams – and a few titles at the ATP500 and Masters levels, Djokoivc has struggled with form and fitness, suffering from injuries and what appears to a a mental breakdown or burnout.
This, perhaps, coupled with what may be other underlying issues has, perhaps precipitated the exit, with Becker appearing to confirm it during the interview. “I truly enjoyed the last three years [with Novak], I had a blast,” the German said. “I was in my element and will continue to be in my element in the future.”
“No regrets,” he said in the interview, describing his time with Djokovic as an “unbelievable ride.”
Becker’s use of the past tense appears to indicate that the relationship will end imminently, with every scheduled event on the ATP calendar for the 2016 season having concluded.
Earlier last week, Marian Vajda, who has been part of Djokovic’s core team for a decade, suggested Djokovic had been suffering from burnout, saying he had “achieved all he had to” following his French Open win earlier this year.
Additions to the team
Djokovic’s decision to add ‘love guru’ Pepe Imaz to his core coaching team was met with serious derision from several sources, among them those inside the tennis world. Becker declined to comment, saying “I am on the inside, I know everything and I can’t tell you. I love my player, and protect him, and I will never say anything about that. I will plead the fifth amendment. “
Echoing Vajda’s statements, Becker said of Djokovic, “you can imagine how any sportsman, after consistently winning everything, he gets tired of it, for whatever reason. That was the case with Novak after the French Open. He has the right to take time out, to pursue other interests, spend more time with his family.”
Discussing the pitfalls of reaching the top in sport, Becker went on, “people forget that the only way you can achieve such success is by being single-minded and selfish and after a few years that can become a lonely place.”
The German coach still had praise for Djokovic, however, saying “I thought Novakin the semi-final [at the ATP World Tour Finals] against [Kei] Nishikori played the way he played during the first six months of the year. That's how well he can play with everything in place.”
Despite the loss having occured a month ago, Becker still expressed incredulity. “I still don’t know what happened,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how badly he played...given the circumstances. That was probably, under my guidance, the worst match he has played.”
Becker also had words for Andy Murray, whose win over Djokovic at the Tour Finals sealed the World No. 1 ranking.
On Andy Murray’s rise to the top
Acknowledging his achievement, Becker said Murray would “begin to feel it in May.” Given that Djokovic, who had a stellar start to the 2016 season, will be defending a significant number of points, it is very likely Murray will hold on to his top rank until the clay court season. “I think he [Murray] is going to start to feel it in May. It’s one thing playing up with nothing to lose but it’s a whole other ball game when you’ve got something to lose, the consequences of being World No. 1.”
A former No. 1 himself, Becker said that the “expectations and responsibilities” made it “more strenuous,” and Murray, who has famously dealt with stress through his career, has become an advocate for mental health awareness as a result.”
“But I think he will be fine until the clay court swing,” Becker said, adding it would be a “tougher fight for Murray” in 2017.
The Next Generation
According to Becker, the newer crop of tennis players were “just knocking at the door,” mentioning a number of players by name. “Thiem has quality. And I see Kyrgios happening.”
Nick Kyrgios has a big future ahead of him, according to Becker. “I don’t want to give him advice,” he said in the interview. Discussing Kyrgios’ fiery nature, reminiscent of his own, Becker said “I am not entitled to give him advice,” he said, “but he’s 21, still very young.”
Becker referred to himself, and contemporaries John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, all of whom were known as much for their prodigious skill as for their tempers. “...we misbehaved, and got fined and broke racquets, so we shouldn’t be too hard on him.” Calling the fiery young Australian a “talented player," he went on to say “he did not kill anybody or slap the umpire, he is not a criminal.”