Over the past year or so, the Serbian Novak Djokovic, has been nearly unbeatable. In fact, he hadn’t lost in his last 27 matches, but still found himself seeded No. 2 in the world. The Australian Open would have given him the first Grand Slam title of 2014. Even a few days later, Djokovic’s incredible five set quarterfinal loss is still shocking. What’s more shocking than the fact it was in the quarterfinals, is that he was defeated by a swiss whose name isn’t Federer, but rather Wawrinka. Now, with nearly unrivaled success, was there any reason for Djokovic to change something in his game, or more specifically, to his staff?
Everything seemed to be going perfectly for Djokovic, but there had to be something that was bothering him. Was his fall from No. 1 in the world, (especially considering it was behind the spanish hero Rafael Nadal) that much of a confidence killer? Djokovic has always used the Australian Open as a way to kickstart his year, his three Aussie titles being evidence of this. This year, maybe more than any, it was crucial that Djokovic got off to a good start, mostly because of the change he made to his coaching staff. Who would have thought he’d name the German Boris Becker as his coach.
It is well known that Becker is one of the greatest of all time, competing against other greats such as Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg. But as a coach? Of course Djokovic, along with most within the tennis world, appreciates the work Becker has done in the past, citing not only his legendary will to succeed, but also positive traits as a person. But what happened to this tennis character after leaving the racquet behind, and why has he decided to show up in the tennis arena now?
Lets flashback. The year is 1985. A nervous 17 year old boy playing on centre court in his first ever Wimbledon final. Back then he was an unknown tennis player, one among a pack of many, who was trying to conquer the tennis world. His name was Boris Becker. At the end of this match he would become the youngest player to ever win Wimbledon, ensuring no one would ever forget his name. After all these years he still holds this record. Of course he was no one-hit wonder, considering he went on to win five more Grand Slam titles. After playing for over 12 years on the professional circuit, he felt it was time to move on. He retired in 1997, but became Davis-Cup team chef for Germany that same year. But what has Becker been up to all these years after leaving the Davis Cup team in 1999?
It was time to for a new chapter in his life. He had to transition from tennis start to a husband and a father of two. Unfortunately, not everything worked out for him which often happens when such competitive athletes hangs it up for good. His marriage was troubled, and eventually it ended in divorce. He was also never involved in anything concrete away from the game, only occasionally working for the BBC as a TV pundit. I guess, you could say he wasn’t the best at being away from the game.
Lets come back to 2014. He now finds himself the head coach of one of the most skilled and fit players of his time, Novak Djokovic. I would suggest that Djokovic may be the one rescuing him by getting him back to his tennis roots, away from the struggles of a retired star. But seriously, what makes him so attractive to be the one judging, observing and adjusting Djokovic’s game, especially considering he has not been coaching during his 15 years away from the game? Was Novak simply intrigued by his skill and ability as a player? Or is it possible that Djokovic believed he could learn from Becker’s career, and personal life, that had its fair share of emotional ups and downs? Nevertheless, he could prove to be the right person for Djoker. I for one am excited to see how he recovers from this quarter final loss and how the season develops for both of them. Critics aside, I hope he is able to get the best out of Djoker for the upcoming season.