from Aftonbladet Tennisbloggen
by Henrik Ståhl
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Who has ever said that the tennis off-season is boring?
Within a few days, two of the sport's biggest stars, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, shook the lives of sleepy experts and lazy bloggers:
• The legendary Boris Becker becomes Djokovic's new coach.
• His equally legendary rival Stefan Edberg begins cooperation with Federer.
Or, to quote John McEnroe: You've got to be kidding me?
Yes, Andy Murray's partnership with Ivan Lendl was a success. No doubt about that, after two Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal.
But Djokovic and Federer have already got what Murray lacked when he hired the Czech - Grand Slam titles and other sporting monumental success that made them the undisputed biggest stars of today's tennis, along with Rafael Nadal.
Nothing against either Becker or Edberg, but what exactly would they actually contribute? How should Edberg, with his contextually modest 6 Grand Slam titles, help Federer, who has got 17?
And Becker. Will he teach his new protégé how to strike a ball flat in the air better? If the French Open remains Djokovic's highest sporting priority, his choice of coach seems a little strange. Of the German's six Grand Slam titles (as many as Djokovic), three came at Wimbledon (1985-86, 89), two at the Australian Open (1991, 1996) and one at the US Open (1989). At the Roland Garros, his best results are the semifinals he reached on three occasions (1987, 1989, 1991). There is probably not much in Djokovic's game that Becker can improve.
Which is not particularly strange. The former world number one certainly had a stable baseline game and was also good behind the baseline, but he was at his best at the net (especially on grass).
Federer's collaboration with Edberg makes just a little bit more sense. Federer has had some problems with his serve nearly all year and even struggled at the net (which used to belong to his comfort zone). The Swiss' problems mainly lie in his low self-esteem, which, in my opinion, depends on lack of motivation and too little practise. Perhaps Edberg may help Federer to find stability in his serve and net game, and thus repair his mined confidence.
Despite this, it all feels like something of a PR stunt. That it is first and foremost about the fact that Becker and Edberg will represent Djokovic and Federer. The logic seems to be that just to have them in their teams creates security off court, which in turn creates a sense of security on court. Just the same way that Lendl started his cooperation with Murray primarily working on a mental plane off court, and then adjust certain aspects of the game.
From that perspective, Djokovic's and Federer's decision could be ingenious, by moving some of the focus from themselves to their new mentors. A bit like when Diego Maradona made headlines as coach of Argentina and thus protected his vulnerable players from the spotlight. This is not quite on the same level, but you will understand the comparison.
It might as well prove disastrous. Hiring former great players with limited experience of coaching at this level is always a risk. It may well be that the pressure and expectations multiply. The pressure on Murray and Lendl for 2012 was not little, and many were initially skeptical. Then they proved their chemistry and Lendl's clear leadership became critical. A few missteps, and it could have been crashing to hell.
Personally I find it difficult to see Becker lead Djokovic. The relationship between Edberg and Federer is probably a more friendly cooperation, so there should not be any friction.
But as I said, from a purely sporting point of view... If they have been inspired by Murray's and Lendl's successes I have only one advice to give: forget it. Straightaway.
Murray has namely much to learn from Lendl on a game point of view. The defensive shots needed to be adjusted and this could make Lendl turn into a natural teacher.
Whether Djokovic really needs to learn to hit a volley from Becker to win more Grand Slams, however, is highly questionable. It is rather a mental mentor the Serb needs. He has certainly a mind of steel in exposed situations, but he has obvious problems with his focus during big and small matches, and not necessarily because he is disturbed by external circumstances. Therefore, I think a coach like Magnus Norman would have suited him better.
To begin with, we can allow ourselves to be amused by the commotion this news surely can create. A small Christmas gift in advance for all of the Djokovic and Federer fans. From all of us, to all of you. Period.
- Stefan Edberg & Tony Pickard Mr Class and his teacher
- "Federer should skip the claycourt season," says former coach Edberg
- "Federer is exceptional, but tennis needs a new name too"
- "I am a happy person"
- Federer criticizes young players: "I wish they volleyed more"
- And now, Federer-Edberg!
- Another shocking pair for 2014. Federer hires Edberg
- Edberg to coach Federer in 2014
- Federer: «I will never be able to volley like Stefan Edberg»
- Courier: Becker and Edberg fresh air for Nole and Roger
- Djokovic-Becker, Federer-Edberg… Will They Work?
- Becker, Edberg and Lendl. The challenge never ends
- Pete Sampras: Roger could learn from Edberg's chip-and-charge
- The new wave of coaches
- Coach revival. Top players choose greats from the past