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Boris Becker and Novak Djokovic

Itʼs the ʻmust haveʼ for 2014, a name in the box to rival the name on court.

First it was Andy two years ago, Ivan Lendl lending his presence and history to the Murray camp, the premise being that the Scot was slow in finding his first major and something had to be done.

It worked, Lendlʼs minimal coaching backdrop more than offset by his force of personality and focus on the winning, his 11 major finals lost but eight won an astonishing insight into the resolve of a champion.

Andyʼs off his duck now of course with Novak the next to recharge, the memory of his 2011 annus mirabilis fast receding and Rafaʼs resurgence enough to imperil everyone outside the Spaniardʼs camp.

Boris Becker is an invigorating call as Novakʼs new mentor, the journey promising as much as the results, a full throttle thrust to the celebrity of the game.

Stefan Edberg always flew under the radar though anyone taking on Roger Federer, the man with 17 majors in his locker, has to believe they can bring some new tricks to the party.

But why now?

Andy makes sense in hindsight, his desire demanding the upturn only a man who had been there and done it could instill, the ʻmaybeʼ needing to be told he was a definite by a definite.

Equally Novak, a cast iron winner under coach Marian Vajda, knew the machine had to change. Marian led all for seven years but slowly and imperceptibly the success began to slip, the apex possibly in Melbourne two years ago and Novakʼs near six-hour war with Rafa to retain his Australian crown.

It was an extraordinary effort and perhaps drained far more than we thought, Novak winning just one major since. Itʼs not what heʼs used to. The No.1 slot, ceded to Rafa late this year, will have rattled to the core.

To demote Marian wonʼt have come easily but professional loyalty endures only in sync with the results. And the results Novak decided, need to be better.

Itʼs some swap, the combustible Boris a polar opposite of the stolid, implacable Slovak, the mischievous sibling to the kindly, dependable uncle. Boris Becker though has long been a euphemism for self belief, aggression, achievement, a loner who flits in and fits in everywhere. People stop and look with Boris, he commands the attention, subliminally, compellingly.

This is what Novak is paying for, someone to bestow the marginal improvement, the one or two per cent that makes the difference, that one or two per cent that sits in the head.

Maybe Andy got him thinking with an appointment curiously out of sync with the traditions of the game. The tennis greats, Borg, Sampras, Agassi, Laver and more donʼt really coach. Itʼs taboo almost, you donʼt go there. Or rather you didnʼt.

“When Ivan was appointed, I thought about what took some of these guys so long to talk about some of these all-time greats," Becker told the BBC.

"There was a generation that really changed tennis and the way we played in the 1980s is not that different to how we're playing today."

It could be simply that Novak is looking to cadge Beckerʼs serve and volley brilliance as his weapon of difference yet itʼs implausible Novak would dispense with Marian on this ground alone.

Itʼs a leap - of faith or desperation - for the summit. Roger and Rafa have 30 slams between them, Andyʼs winning and Novakʼs worried. Boris spent just nine weeks as world No,1 but roared his way to six slams and on his day youʼd back Boris against anyone.

Which is why Novak needs him, to whisper in the ear, to cajole, to make him believe. To know the words are coming from someone who has been there, wreaked havoc and bled the same worries and cravings. From the fiery boom boom king, not the world No. 34 player his old coach once was.

Stefan will hold a similar sway, six slams won from the front of court, a smooth elegance unmatched by anyone since, except Roger. The ʻnicest man in tennisʼ epithet masked a killer, the aesthetically sublime backhand unmatched since by anyone, except Roger. Itʼs the consummate feel-good alliance, a 10-week secondment in 2014 paving the beginning only perhaps.

Step back from the initial surprise and the fit points to the psychological; Roger is no more an automatic contender, winning just one win of the last 15 slams. Stefan Edberg as coach raises the bar and in an instant brings Roger back into the very top fold. ʻWhatever you can, I can do tooʼ in effect, maybe even better. Nice move.

Two years ago John McEnroe welcomed Murrayʼs choice of coach. “They needed to do something out of the ordinary. If I was Murray and looking at this guy (Lendl) Iʼd think he could potentially take me to the next level.”

Novak and Roger have very obviously taken note but thereʼll be no honeymoon period however.

“The challenge in 2014 will be to win Australia, because it would achieve something only Rod Laver did, which is twice winning the four (grand slams),” says Rafaʼs mentor Toni Nadal.

Bring it on.

 

 

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Post-Tournament
Sunday, 20 April 2014
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