Could Boris Becker’s ‘Locker-Room Banter’ Be Damaging Novak Djokovic?
World number-one Novak Djokovic was knocked out of the Shanghai Open semi-finals today. Sports Gazette attempts to get to the bottom of the Serb’s recent fall from grace.
Let’s start off by rewinding to 29th May 2016- Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray in four sets to win Roland Garros. In doing so, Djokovic became the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four Grand Slams at once.
Today, Djokovic has fallen in a third consecutive tournament. Having lost in the Olympics and US Open, the Serb lost to 19th-seed Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6 4-6 in the Shanghai Open.
The last time Djokovic missed out on three consecutive ATP tour titles was in 2014 when he lost in Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open.
To add salt to the wounds, Djokovic’s tearful exit in Rio was the first time he exited a tournament in the first stage since the 2009 Brisbane International to Latvian Ernest Gulbis.
In 2016, Djokovic has played in 14 tournaments, won seven and lost seven. This is not too bad, but when you compare this to last season (played 16, won 12 and lost four), suspicions start to arise.
Of course, a tennis tournament is made up of several matches and these numbers do not tell the whole story but this is an extreme change in the pattern of Djokovic’s career and must be analysed.
A few reasons have been touted out by the media for Djokovic’s drop in form, including injuries. After losing at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey, the Serb claimed he was not 100 per-cent and he called on the trainer several times during his US Open semi-final against Gael Monfils.
Djokovic’s wrist was the main concern and it forced him to pull out of the Cincinnati Masters in August. However it was his left wrist that was injured, the side with which he throws the ball.A superb tennis career, a drop in form and ‘personal issues’: it all sounds very similar to the career of a man very close to Djokovic- Boris Becker. ”
Considering Djokovic is right-handed, the injury is part of the issue but it’s not large enough to throw his form this much.
Another reason proposed was Djokovic’s completion of Grand Slams. Djokovic won 28 consecutive Grand Slam matches to get to victory at Roland Garros.
Djokovic could have lost his focus at Wimbledon amid the euphoria of such a great achievement. And yet, when asked about chasing the Olympic gold medal, Djokovic was clearly intent on adding it to his trophy cabinet.
If this is the case, why would the world number-one lose focus in a Grand Slam which falls between the completion of one ambition and the potential to fulfil the next? Quite simply, it does not make sense.
By the time the US Open came around, things got personal. This was the first time ‘personal issues’ were mentioned as a reason for losing at Wimbledon and his wife, childhood-sweetheart Jelena Ristic, was unusually cold in Djokovic’s first match, even leaving early.
It was at this point that rising Bollywood star Deepika Padukone was mentioned. Djokovic had been spotted dining with the actress in Los Angeles in August and the press were not hesitant to question the motives.
Here there could be some validation. In the Shanghai Open, Djokovic was visibly angry at the play when he broke his racket but also tore his shirt. Perhaps those ‘personal issues’ have not been settled yet?
A superb tennis career, a drop in form and ‘personal issues’: it all sounds very similar to the career of a man very close to Djokovic- Boris Becker.
The German coach historically became the youngest Grand Slam winner at Wimbledon in 1985 but never found consistent success in his career.
Becker also hit the headlines when his cupboard incident with Russian model Angela Ermakowa in London restaurant Nubo’s was exposed in the mid-1990s.
As you can see, some evidence suggests Becker has managed to stay out of the public eye during this difficult period for Djokovic.
This is not an attempt to parallel Djokovic’s career with Becker’s but these similarities offer clues to the Serb’s recent waning success.
What is Becker saying to Djokovic behind the scenes? ‘Divorce’ has been throw into discussion with Djokovic and his wife Ristic- could Becker be influencing the Serb on a pastoral level?
Whilst wrist injuries and the completion of career ambitions seem valid, the player-coach relationship and its proximity could be the most valid reason for Djokovic’s decline.
This week, Djokovic said there was no certainty that he would keep Becker as his coach next season. Perhaps he could be about to pull off a great escape.