Five thoughts on Novak Djokovic’s decision to hire Boris Becker as head coach in 2014:
It’s an odd choice. As a coach, Boris Becker has less experience than just about any former top player Novak could have picked. Perhaps Novak believes Becker, whose mental strength was a match for anyone in his time, could have the same kind of impact that Ivan Lendl, his old foe, has had on Andy Murray. But while Lendl was and is a strategist, Becker usually just overpowered his opponents with stunning serving. Novak’s tactical game is already strong and he’s mentally tough so it’s hard to see – at least at this stage, what Becker will specifically add.
Is two coaches one too many? Djokovic has tried this before, when he brought in Todd Martin to work on his net and transition game a couple of years ago. It didn’t last long and didn’t really work – Martin also tried to fix a kink in his serve – and in the end, Novak went back to using Marian Vajda alone, with stunning success as he romped through 2011. Vajda is still a strong part of the team, we’re told, but says he wants to spend some more time with his family. Let’s hope Boris is a success then; otherwise he’ll be in lone control again soon.
Will we see Novak serving and volleying now? It’s unlikely, in this era of homogenised, slower court surfaces. But perhaps Becker can help Novak make his serve stronger and also improve a volleying technique that is fairly sound, if not exactly devastating. There’s not much room for improvement in Novak’s baseline game, so if Boris can add one or two percent when he goes forward, then it will be worth it.
Becker won’t come cheap . Despite earning millions in his career and plenty since he quit playing, Becker likes his cash. Coaching the world No 2, and committing to as many events as he is (12 events including all four grand slams), Becker will have commanded a hefty pay package, no doubt linked to success in the grand slams but including a big base salary. The German press will tell you that he is a reputation for trying to get as much out of them as possible, be it attention or money, so Novak will have had to dig deep.
How long will it last?
Not sure if either Novak or Boris know what they have let themselves in for. Jimmy Connors’ record (for the shortest spell as coach in recent history) is not likely to be in danger, but it’s tough to see Boris sticking it out for that long, whether it ends up being his or Novak’s decision. Travelling as much as he plans to will be tough on his family. But he was a great champion as a player and so maybe he’ll prove everyone else wrong.