So Novak Djokovic has announced on his website that Boris Becker is his new head coach. Already the “boobirds,” as Phil Rizzuto used to call them, are out saying this will never work, Boris was a serve and volley player from another time, you can’t teach Nole mental toughness, he’s not as tough as Rafael Nadal, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Look, who knows how this will shake down. Nole has always been interested in coming in at the net, more than other baseliners, and Boris has got net. So Boris might add to his arsenal there. As for him teaching Nole mental toughness, if he weren’t tough he wouldn’t have beaten Rafa at the China Open after Rafa took the number one ranking away from him. That must’ve hurt and it took real guts to come back from that sting.
Nor would he have beaten him in their six-hour marathon at the Australian Open in 2012, blood staining his socks. I’m a big Nadalista who came late to Nole appreciation, but the guy’s a warrior.
However, just because we can’t predict the outcome of this relationship – will it be Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl or Maria Sharapova and Jimmy Connors? – doesn’t mean we can’t tease out what this is really about. Tennis, like all sports, is partly a mental game. In hiring Boris, Nole has sent a signal that he’s always looking to improve and stretch himself.
It’s a move that says, “Ball’s in your court, Rafa.”