Novak Djokovic’s decision to hire three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker to replace his coach of seven years, Marian Vajda, has come as a surprise for several reasons but the impact of the enigmatic German’s return to the professional game is unlikely to be significant.
Slovakian coach Vajda, who reached a ranking of 34 in the world at the peak of his playing career, has guided his Serbian charge to all six of his Grand Slam titles – the same haul as Becker finished on – but will still play a big part in the already well-populated camp of the 26-year-old.
Djokovic has prised Becker away from some lucrative gigs as a television pundit but it’s understandable why the 46-year-old found the offer too good to turn down.
Some have suggested that this is an attempt by the Serb to mirror the success of Andy Murray’s appointment of Ivan Lendl – one of Becker’s fiercest adversaries during his career.
However, that looks to be a spurious analysis as unlike Murray at the time of Lendl’s appointment, Djokovic is not having to solve any serious problems to his game or mindset.
Lendl was drafted in at the end of the 2011 season following a series of high-profile defeats in the Grand Slams, including three final losses. This was a perfect fit for the Scot considering his new coach had lost four finals at the Majors before winning what would become the first of eight at the 1984 French Open.
Becker faces a different, more nuanced challenge. Djokovic is not seeking an overhaul of any part of his game but instead trying to capture the extra one or two percent that this meticulous operator believes he requires to dominate the game as he clearly believes he is capable of doing.
The reality is that Becker will have little tangible impression on the technique of a man, who despite disappointing by his standards last campaign, still managed to contest the final of every single Grand Slam, coming away with the Australian Open along with three Masters 1000 events and the end-of-season tour championships in London.
Instead, Becker will be a reassuring presence in Djokovic’s box in the difficult moments, where the player will be able to look at his coach rest assured that he fully understands what he is going through and how difficult it is to achieve what he is trying to do.
In that sense he will play a similar role to Lendl, but its importance is nowhere near as critical as it was for Murray.
Djokovic has already shown many times his ability to emerge through extremely high pressure situations and is nowhere near as prone to lambasting his box as Murray was before Lendl’s arrival.
However, there were signs during those three Grand Slam final defeats that Djokovic, for the first time, was frustrated with his team for not being able to relate to his struggles, something that Becker will not be accused of.
What the consequences will be of this appointment on Djokovic’s season and beyond is difficult to predict, but its unlikely to be revolutionary either way.
Djokovic will likely start as favourite for all the Slams aside from the French Open and the 3/1 that he wins none makes no appeal.
What is for certain is whatever he wins you can be sure Boris will ensure his player doesn’t take all the credit.
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