To answer the question: Not much! That’s what I think about Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker ending their coaching relationship.
As was pointed out in another thread, coaches sometimes do matter. It’s irrefutable that Magnus Norman has helped Stan Wawrinka. And it’s not just coincidence that Andy Murray seems to win all his big titles while Ivan Lendl’s by his side.
But I’m not sure a guy like Roger Federer benefits much from a “super coach”, and I feel the same way with Djokovic.
Sure, under Becker, Djokovic won six Slams, won a couple dozen titles, etc, but without Becker you could argue Djokovic would have done just as well. Heck, maybe better. Maybe worse? Who knows, but I strongly feel the results wouldn’t have been much different.
Bottom line is, Djokovic was a great player before Becker and he’ll be a great player after Becker. That is if he wants to be.
What I do look forward to with Becker now is that he’s a free man, and he’s a free man who likes to talk! And it didn’t take him long to start spilling some beans on Djokovic. For now, he’s tempered his words, but some day the “good stuff” will come out.
A few of Boris’s quotes from the Sky interview:
“He didn’t spend as much time on the practice court in the last six months as he should have and he knows that.”
“I don’t know if he had any personal problems based on what I know… He is happily married. He has got a beautiful son.”
“But the profession of a tennis player is probably the most selfish one in sports because it has to be about you and he is the first to say he is a family man so of course his wife and the rest of his family had to take back seats.
“That can’t be forever and I think that is what he meant. I don’t think there were problems. I have met his wife – she is lovely and very, very supportive of her husband.
“But they don’t spend enough time together. I had it too, 20 years ago. It is just the nature of the beast, being a tennis player.”
So, translation: Boris is saying in a nice way that Novak has family problems and tennis has now taken a back seat. It’s the “nature of beast”, because we know Boris has been there (ie, broom closet).
And I said as much a month ago so I won’t rehash it all here.
But what I will say is for Djokovic the coach doesn’t really matter. As long as he’s got some people around him he can trust and bounce things off of, he’s fine. That could be Marian, that clown Pepe or one of his bros, I don’t think it makes much of a difference.
What does make a difference is motivation. As Boris said, he’s got to want to get back to work. This is up to him. And I agree with Boris, if Novak puts the work back in he’ll smoke Murray and everyone else for another 12-18 months or so. The tour would again be his because when Novak’s in full flight, he’s hands down the best tennis player on the planet, no argument.
But again, my sense is in effort to get things right at home, Novak’s put tennis behind his family. It’s almost like he’s been told (and I think he was) that he can’t have both, chase the records and have a home life, like Federer has managed to do for so long. And that’s how it is now (we see this decision to split with Boris) and it could be that way going forward. We’ll see, his choice.
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