A Tribute to Boris Becker

There is no doubt that the Djokovic-Becker player-coach partnership was one of the most successful partnerships in tennis history if not the most successful. It would therefore almost be a crime for me not to do a post to pay tribute to Becker after the two decided to part ways to my great disappointment.

This partnership was one of the most enjoyable things for me about tennis in the last few years. When they first decided to work together I personally thought the partnership made a lot of sense having watched Djokovic losing his grip on Nadal during 2013.

He needed to add an extra dimension to his game to finish points more effectively and decisively because Nadal was taking advantage of his lack of finishing power. And I thought Becker was the ideal solution for that.

There were plenty of skeptics about the partnership, especially when Djokovic lost his Australian Open crown as soon as they started working together. But Djokovic and Becker were still finding each other which they did at Wimbledon that same year.

That was the beginning of unprecedented success where they won six out of eight slams, two World Tour Finals titles, 14 Masters titles, had the most dominant tennis season in history in 2015, and of course won the career slam and the personal slam.

Unbelievable success. Given their unbelievable success rate, I guess it makes sense to a certain extent that they decided to part ways after what happened the last six months. They had set such high standards that they expected nothing less than the absolute best.

Still, I feel like the breakup is disappointing because I think Becker’s technical as well as mental input was a tremendous asset to Djokovic. Since he hired Becker he improved immensely as an offensive player.

His serve, forehand, and net game all improved measurably. But Becker’s presence at the side of the court was invaluable for Djokovic in the mental department as well. The way Becker played mind games with opponents and the media is the stuff of legend.

Djokovic is the nice guy type who doesn’t like to intimidate or get in the face of his opponents. It is just not his personality. But against certain opponents, that is an important skill to have. And I think where Djokovic was reluctant to play that role Becker played it for him.

I am reminded of the Federer SABR tactic which Djokovic was too nice to counter by going straight at Federer’s body(which he had all the right in the world to do), but Becker said some things in the media which I don’t think sat very well with Federer.

That is just one example but a very fascinating and entertaining one at that. Becker comes out of a tennis era where that kind of mental warfare was much more prominent too and I think he enjoyed that role quite a bit.

And so did I. So I will miss his partnership with Djokovic and not just for the success they had. It’s hard to see Djokovic have that kind of chemistry and success with someone else but I guess you never know.

The main point I want to make is that it was an unbelievably successful partnership and instead of feeling sad, angry, or depressed it is something that should be celebrated. Becker took Djokovic from someone on six major titles straight into the GOAT debate in a question of two and a half years.

The climax was the elusive French Open title which gave Djokovic the career slam and personal slam and propelled him into the GOAT debate. If he doesn’t win anything more from here on he will still be in the GOAT debate with Federer and Nadal.

Neither of them completed the personal slam and neither of them was as dominant as Djokovic was in 2015. Djokovic reached the highest level of tennis ever played. He was the most complete and unbeatable player in history in his time with Becker.

He didn’t have a poor head-to-head record against his main rival like Federer and he didn’t rely heavily on one surface the way Nadal did. He didn’t have the mental flaws of Federer or the negative and defensive game of Nadal.

He could do it all. I’m not saying it is over but this is the end of the Djokovic-Becker era. And I wanted to celebrate the incredible success they had through this post and give Becker and the partnership the tribute it deserved.

  • What Is Next for Djokovic?

Who knows what is next for Djokovic but does it really matter? Of course, as fans, we want more success and to see him win more slams, but I think Djokovic achieved his most important goals at this point.

He set himself apart from Federer and Nadal with the personal slam and by winning the most Masters titles and through other things that I already mentioned. Sure we don’t want it to end now but I think we should view whatever is left as a bonus.

Personally, I’d love to see him win at least 2-3 more slams to leave no doubt whatsoever that he is a superior player to Nadal. To me, he is already a better player but it would just be nice if he makes it impossible for even the Nadal fans to deny it.

It would be nice if he can win 18 slams and surpass Federer too, but I never thought that he necessarily has to do that to be greater than Federer. Unfortunately, the brainwashed masses think grand slams are the only thing that matters in the GOAT debate.

It is the most important but it is far from the only. But like I said Djokovic has already carved out a very telling and unique legacy for himself in tennis. To become the undisputed GOAT he would have to win 18 slams but I think when Becker and Djokovic came together at the beginning of 2014 them or any one of Djokovic’s fans would have been ecstatic if they knew what the current outcome would be.

He is already in the GOAT debate and he still has the rest of his career to make an even stronger case for himself and to try and set himself apart from Federer and Nadal completely.

I was glad to hear that Vajda is staying with him at least so that there is still a familiar face left which have been with him through it all. I don’t know what lies ahead and whether Djokovic will hire someone new but I do think if Djokovic wants to stay dominant he must win the Australian Open next year.

Especially with him and Becker breaking up and the uncertainty that surrounds that I think it would go a long way towards reassuring his fans that he is still the dominant force in tennis. If he doesn’t win it the people who are pessimistic about the Becker breakup will become even more pessimistic.

No one knows what the future holds but it should be interesting to find out and from what I hear Djokovic is already back in Monte Carlo training hard!

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22 Comments

  1. Thank you Ru-an, a lovely tribute. Those photos show the chemistry don’t they – Boris really cared about Nole and anything he has said to the media was done out of wanting the best for our boy. BB will be a hard act to follow. I hope it doesn’t end here for Nole, but as you say whatever happens now is a bonus.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    You’re welcome, Lynsey. Yes, Becker will be a hard act to follow but Djokovic did win half of his slams without him. I’m sure he’ll be fine.

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    Lynsey Adams Reply:

    Ever one to look on the bright side – that’s the spirit! Haven’t quite got there yet myself but am trying – must stop looking at those man-hug pictures and go forward. :-)

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I get sad when I look at the man-hug photos too! I love the chemistry they had and it is a shame that it is over. But I choose to focus on the positive things to make me feel better 😊

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  2. I don’t think Federer is considered the GOAT just because he has 17 Slams. Rather, it’s his consistency that gave him that predicate (e.g. reaching 18 out of 19 Slam finals, 23 consecutive GS semi-finals, 36 consecutive GS quarterfinals, making it to at least 5 finals in all Slams + WTF and so on). Djokovic has his own records, but nothing close to this in terms of consistency.

    So yeah, Slams only don’t say it all. Djokovic and Federer are pretty close. Their H2H does not say anything in my book (age gap too large) and it’s still very close.

    Those two are on top for sure along with Laver of course.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    These debates are kinda pointless but Djokovic has been pretty consistent himself and he is 5 years younger than Federer and far from done. H2h does matter because young Djokovic played Federer in his prime so it evens out. 3-1 in slams finals is also significant, 2 of them at Wimbledon Federer’s best slam.

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    Eren Reply:

    Three Slam finals were played when Djokovic was in his prime, all of them going in his favour. Only one was played when Federer was in his prime which Fed won. So, as I said, pretty close.

    Just tried to make the point that Fed is not regarded in that GOAT debate just because of his Slam tally, that’s all.

    One thing is for sure, I can see Djokovic win Slams for at least three more years. Federer on the other hand, definitely not lol.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Djokovic’s peak level is higher than Federer’s anyway. Grass is not his best surface while it is Federer’s and he still defeated him in the Wimby finals when Federer was playing extremely well.

    But I agree that Federer is not in the GOAT debate only for his slam tally. He had amazing consistency, longevity, and adaptability. I also agree that it is between him, Laver, and Djokovic. They are tier one for me.

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  3. You should write on how amazing Djokovic holding all four slams in a row really is. The media hasn’t shown the enormity of the achievement and in my honest opinion I see holding four Slams in a row the equivalent of a calender year slam. What difference does it make if the calendar year starts on 1 July and finished 30 June like the financial year calendar accountants use or the normal calendar year which starts on 1 January and finishing 31 December? Judging by the financial year calendar, Djokovic would have held all four slams in a ‘calendar year’ (Wimbledon 2015 in July-French Open 2016 in June). Having said that, I think Djokovic has achieved the biggest achievement in tennis and Djokovic holding all four slams is more remarkable than Laver’s 1969 year as back in Laver’s time, it was full of amateurs and the amount of tennis pros was very small back then compared to the tens of thousands of tennis pros in the world today. Think about it.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I agree, Jason and yes I tried to make people aware of how remarkable the personal slam is. I was amazed by the lack of attention it received. You are right that there is hardly any difference between the personal slam and the calendar slam. I would also add that the Djoker slam is more impressive than Laver’s calendar slam because it was done on 3 different surfaces. I Laver’s day three of the slams were played on grass.

    Good idea for a post anyway. I have written plenty about the Djoker slam but I will do it again to try and compensate for the mainstream’s lack of coverage.

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    jason Reply:

    Exactly. Personal Slam = Calendar Slam. Doesn’t matter what month of the year the calendar starts, holding all 4 slams is the ultimate tennis achievement. The media for some odd reason seems to have done everything in its power to bring Djokovic down whether its taking a comment he made completely out of proportion, making a big deal out of something he did on the court, questioning his integrity, rigging the draw etc etc list goes on. Hence no surprise media is quiet when it comes to the Djokovic Slam. And why most tennis fans don’t understand the enormity of winning 4 slams in a row which probably will never be done again.

    Lets not forget Djokovic also has had a much tougher time winning his slams than Nadal and Federer and his 12 slams weigh a lot more than Nadals 14 and Federers 17 slams. He’s had to consistently duel against Nadal, Federer, Murray and now Wawrinka. Sampras would not have won 14 slams with that many high quality opponents up his neck. Its nice to see another tennis fan see how great of an achievement Djokovic winning 4 slams in a row really is.

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  4. ‘He didn’t have the mental flaws of Federer or the negative and defensive game of Nadal.’ I don’t think you can question the mental state of a man who has 17 slams and 88 titles overall! And to suggest Nadal is ‘negative’ is frankly ludicrous: hearing his comments throughout his career suggests the complete opposite.

    Finally, to blame Djokovic’s slump in the latter part of the year as basically down to his wife is, at the very least, spurious. She has always struck me as immensely supportive of her husband; clearly her son is probably now her priority, which is as it should be, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less supportive. You have absolutely no evidence for your ‘theory’, nor are you privy to their personal life.
    What’s wrong with blaming the slump on a combination of mental and physical pressures? Becker himself has suggested the pressure of reaching and maintaining the No1 position is immense. Couple that with winning the FO and you have the recipe for mental and physical exhaustion. You disregarded the appearance of Pepe in the ‘forefront’ of his team as a contributory factor, but IMO this cultish figure has done nothing for Djokovic but has helped his ‘credibility’ immensely. A tennis player requires the ‘killer instinct’ which Djokovic had in spades. If it no longer matters (peace and love) if you win or lose and you get plenty of hugs either way…Well, he has a little time to pick himself up, let’s see if he can do it.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks for your views 👍

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  5. Hard to question the mental strength of a man who has won 17 slams and has 88 titles, and to describe Nadal as ‘negative’ is laughable.
    Blaming Jelena for Djokovic’s current slump is neither factual (since you know nothing of their personal relationship) and is clearly not backed up by her (to me) obvious love and support of her husband. Their baby son might take priority now, as it should, but there is nothing to suggest that she is not as supportive as she’s always been.
    How about blaming the slump on mental/physical pressures: getting FO after so long, the strain of holding on to No1 position? Fits with what Becker says and is rather more credible. Plus, he’s now got 900+ matches in his legs; Nadal has 980, Federer 1300 +, Murray just over 800. Things will undoubtedly get harder for him now, as it did for Federer and Nadal. No one escapes.
    He’s got time to pick it up next year, should be interesting.

    [Reply]

    Ru-an Reply:

    I have blamed the slump on burnout about a million times before this post, which includes mental and physical issues. No one was disputing that. Again, thanks for your views 😉

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  6. Anybody watching Novak’s matches closely could not have missed the difference in the appearance and attitude of Jelena. (That’s when she is even there). I admire her and am not saying she is to ‘blame’ for anything as I don’t know, but her demeanour has been completely different to what it used to be when yes, she always appeared to be a devoted and involved supporter of her husband. She has looked increasingly distant, uninvolved, disinterested, sad or stern, with none of her former liveliness or sparkle. This could have been sheer worry about Novak’s performance, we don’t know. But not to notice something very different about her appearance and attitude at tournaments seems to be burying your head in the sand. (This is not to deny that there are also other reasons already mentioned, including mental and physical burnout, that have contributed to the present situation).

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Interesting Lynsey. I haven’t followed her appearance. It’s not something I looked out for. But yes I have heard similar things from other Nole fans. I always thought she looked like a supportive wife but something is up.

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  7. The hard-core Nole fan misses nothing! ;-) Do you remember how badly he was affected when his old coach died, and I believe they kept his grandfather’s death from him when he was playing a tournament, though I can’t remember which one. You may have been more in the Fed camp at the time. He’s an emotional guy, one of the reasons we love him! I keep remembering that hug in the corridor after Wimbledon 2015 – nobody else existed for them in those moments, and Fed walked past like he was invisible. That feels like 100 years ago now. So we hope they will have resolved the problems and she will be smiling again – a happy Jelena should mean a happy and hopefully focused Nole. If not…who knows?

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    Ru-an Reply:

    I remember his coach and grandfather’s deaths and I know it was a big thing for him as you’d expect. I also remember the hug. Who knows what the future holds for Djokovic at this point. It is difficult to say. But I will support him either way.

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  8. I’m surprised to hear that Novak will not replace Becker with another coach, Becker brought a world class perspective to Djokovic and I feel like missing this knowledge will leave a gap of knowledge in the Djokovic camp. Although hiring a new coach would take time to bond and see eye to eye. He needs a flying start to 2017 if he wants to reh=gain world No.1 so perhaps he doesn’t feel like he has the time to hire a new coach.

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