Three-times Wimbledon champion Becker had never shown any
inclination towards coaching, was neck deep with his media and
business commitments and as a classic serve-and-volleyer, his
playing style could not have been more different to Djokovic's
baseline power game.
But just as Ivan Lendl found the lure of working with Andy Murray
hard to resist, Becker was intrigued by the challenge of working
with a man who, like him, owned six grand slam titles.
Six months later Djokovic hit the jackpot when he finally ended
months of torment and frustration by edging out Roger Federer in a
pulsating five-set Wimbledon final on Sunday for his seventh grand
Despite the joyous scenes that unfolded in the players' box, with
the Serb clambering up to hug his German mentor, many were left
wondering what exactly Becker's impact had been.
Whereas Federer provided plenty of evidence of why he too had hired
a grand slam champion - in his case Becker's great rival Stefan
Edberg - by approaching the net 67 times and winning 78 percent of
his serve-and-volley approaches during Sunday's battle, Becker's
influence was less tangible.
It was nevertheless omnipresent in Djokovic's mind.
"He knows exactly what kind of challenges I have to face mentally to
play big tournaments and big matches," a bleary-eyed Djokovic,
wearing a navy polo shirt, chinos and dark grey loafers, told
reporters at the All England Club on Monday.
"He was so successful at Wimbledon... so of course he understands
the movement and the kind of game plan that can be successful.
"What we talked about most is how to be mentally strong ... trying
to prepare myself psychologically for what is expected on court...
especially in the critical moments of which there were many
"Boris contributed mostly from the psychological perspective because
of his broad experience," added Djokovic, who before Sunday had lost
five of his previous six grand slam finals.
The relationship, however, did not gel immediately despite Djokovic
naming Becker as his head coach and relegating Marian Vajda to a
part-time role even though the Slovakian had guided him to through
41 title triumphs.
"Because of the difference in our characters and differences in our
approach, it took time to find the right chemistry. Last couple of
months were very successful and Marian Vajda contributed to that,"
said the 27-year-old.
"It wasn't part of the schedule for Marian to be in Rome (in May)
but I considered that tournament to be a turning point in my
relationship with Boris because Marian graciously accepted to be
there and spend time together with Boris.
"We won that tournament, the three of us, and it was a time when I
started feeling much closer to Boris and understood what message
he's trying to convey to me.
"There were a few things he said that were important but most of all
it is the mental toughness and the self belief.
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"He believes in my game, he knows that I have the game to win this
tournament and I just needed to hang in there and stay tough
regardless of what I go through on the court."
The sheer relief at beating a rival who Djokovic called "the most
loved tennis player in the world" was palpable on Monday afternoon
as the beaming Serb wandered around the vast grounds of the All
England Club exchanging high fives and handshakes with many a
His demeanor was in total contrast to the player who had trudged off
Center Court at the end of an electrifying fourth set after Federer
had saved match point at 4-5 down to level the contest at two sets
"I needed some time to refocus and forget about what happened in the
fourth set, forget about the missed opportunities and move on," said
the Belgrade native.
"I had this positive encouragement to say to myself, and even though
you go through different emotions during such an important match and
there are times when you have doubts, especially after the fourth
set the disappointment that brought with it the fear and all these
different demons inside.
"When you start fighting them that's the biggest fight that you can
have. That's what I experienced and I managed to have my conviction
stronger than my doubts in this moment and managed to push myself
the very last step to win the trophy."
The victory was not only worth 1.76 million pounds ($2.96 million),
it also sparked a week of celebrations as it elevated him back to
the world number one ranking on Monday - just two days before his
marriage to his long-time girlfriend Jelena Ristic.
No wonder he was licking the red icing off the number 1 shaped cake
he was presented with on Monday.
"This is my passion, this is my life and this is something that I
always wanted to do. I feel it is a destiny for me to play tennis,"
"I donít take tennis as a job, as a commitment or as an obligation.
I take tennis as love and passion and something I enjoy doing. The
inspiration I have just having a racket in my hand is remarkable."
($1 = 0.5956 British Pounds)
(Editing by Rex Gowar)
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