AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2014
Djokovic Confident With Becker Support
by ATP Staff|
World No. 2 Novak Djokovic is unbeaten in 21 matches at Melbourne Park and with Boris Becker in his corner, goes into the 2014 Australian Open looking to lift the trophy for the fifth time, having won his first Grand Slam championship Down Under in 2008 (d. Tsonga).
The three-time defending champion has made a major change to his coaching team this season by bringing in six-time Grand Slam winner Becker as his head coach, having previously worked with Marian Vajda up until now in his professional career. Vajda remains on Djokovic's team and will travel to some tournaments.
The Serb is not alone in bringing in a former legend of the game in an attempt to give him an edge in the increasing competitiveness atop the Emirates ATP Rankings, and he hopes to benefit from Becker’s famed serve and volley prowess.
“I have the utmost respect for what he has achieved in his career,” said Djokovic in his pre-tournament press conference at Melbourne Park on Sunday. “The great serve. Obviously at the time the construction of the point was different. Everything was faster. Served and volleyed many times.
“But tennis has evolved in a way because of the technology. Now the game is based on the baseline, longer rallies and so forth. Well, I believe with his great volleys, that aggressive kind of mindset also, from that point of view he can help me.
“I'm really glad to have Boris on board. Obviously I'm glad to see there is that many tennis legends coming back and being active as coaches in the teams of many active players. It's really positive for the sport. It attracts a lot of attention. Obviously, they have won so many Grand Slams between themselves, they've all been No. 1's of the world, they've been champions, they know what we all go through in particular moments, especially in the Grand Slams.
“They can identify themselves through us. I guess that's where the biggest help would come from: the mental aspect and obviously working with some elements in the game.”
Djokovic is bidding to become just the second man to win four consecutive Australian Open singles crowns after his victories over Murray in 2011 and 2013, and Nadal in 2012. While three men have won three consecutive titles in Australia - Djokovic, Jack Crawford (1931-1933) and Roy Emerson (1963-1967) - only Emerson has won four or more in a row with five straight titles.
As well as talking about his own chances at the Australian Open, Djokovic also identified Sydney champion Juan Martin del Potro and Brisbane winner Lleyton Hewitt as potential threats at Melbourne Park.
Former finalist Hewitt, who finished runner-up to Marat Safin in 2005, has rolled back the years at the start of 2014, beating Roger Federer in the Brisbane final to lift his 29th tour-level trophy.
“We can expect him to make some damage here in Melbourne Park,” said Djokovic. “In Australia he's always one of the most difficult players to play against because he has a big crowd support. He loves playing on Rod Laver Arena. He loves competing and trying to win every match that he plays on.
“He's extra motivated when he plays one of the top players. He loves that. Whenever he's fit and ready, he still can beat anyone. He has proven that winning against Roger in Brisbane. He's in great form.”
World No. 5 del Potro goes into the Australian Open looking to win his second Grand Slam championship, adding to the 2009 US Open (d. Federer). The Argentine also enters in good form, having beaten Bernard Tomic to triumph at the Apia International Sydney yesterday. He and Djokovic played one of the best matches of 2013 in the Wimbledon semi-finals and the Serb is only too aware of the threat del Potro poses.
“He's fitter. I feel that on the court he's ready to go the distance,” said Djokovic. “That was, I believe, his biggest issue in the past. He played a couple of tournaments well, then didn't play for the next few weeks or month, couldn't really sustain that level of consistency physically.
“He won a Grand Slam. He's definitely one of the best players in the world. I believe he has the potential to win Grand Slams and to be definitely one of the players to fight for No. 1. Why not?
“In this year or next year, that's something that I don't know exactly. It depends really of how consistently he can play throughout the whole year. It's not about playing one or two Grand Slams well, or a few months. In order to be No. 1 of the world, you have to play consistently well 10 months.”
Djokovic opens his title defence on Monday night on Rod Laver Arena against Lukas Lacko.