Novak Djokovic has just completed one of the most sensational tennis seasons ever witnessed in the sport. Four Grand Slam finals, three Grand Slam titles, 6 Masters 1000 wins, 15 consecutive finals, the ATP Finals. A total of 11 titles and $21,592,195 coming into Nole’s pockets. A final count of 82 wins and just 6 losses.
Clearly, it hardly gets any better than that…
Sitting in Novak’s corner all year, witnessing the Serb’s successes and dominance was all along coach Boris Becker. The 6-time Slam champion has joined the Serb’s team in December 2013, making his debut at the 2014 Australian Open in Nole’s box, to witness the defeat of the Serb to Stan Wawrinka, the first defeat in four years at the Australian Open for the Serb.
Things continued much better for Boris and Novak as the year progressed, with the Serb conquering his second Wimbledon title and then finishing the season as World No.1. Then the final explosion with the stellar 2015 season. Clearly the Djokovic-Becker-Vajda team is not going to change in 2016. As the successes started to kick in one after the other, the relationship between Becker and Djokovic evolved. From a rough start of the path, to smooth comprehension and mutual respect. Now, Boris and Novak have found their perfect balance. So much so that at the last ATP Finals in London, Novak said he felt extra motivated to win the final against Roger Federer because it was Boris’s birthday the day of the final.
Clearly, the German could hardly ask any better to his pupil than the almost immaculate 2015 season. But Becker is someone who has never felt shy in front of the media and has always enjoyed his time on the spotlight. Not even the time to close the curtains on the O2 Arena and the German is already starring on the top news. What did Boris say this time?
Making a comparison between the 2015 season of Novak Djokovic and the 2006 season of Roger Federer, the 1989 US Open champion decided to give the edge to the Swiss. Boris went straight on social media and on his Twitter account to make his pick blatantly clear.
Here is the Tweet:
— Boris Becker (@TheBorisBecker) November 23, 2015
Now, do you think Boris is not aware of the fact that Novak is obviously going to read the post? Has the German momentarily lost his mind to the elation of the great end and well deserved holiday? Was he high on beer?
Not really, and the solution to the riddle is very easy. As tennis has become more popular and coaches have started to share the spotlight with their protects, strategies have been developed both on and off court. A strategy doesn’t necessarily have to be seen under a bad connotation of dirtiness. There is nothing wrong in playing with the media to shuffle around and playing with the best cards.
Do you remember what uncle Toni used to do all the time? According to his uncle, Rafa was never the favourite to win a tournament nor he was ever ready to take the final win for either an injury or some other kind of problems. And then, Rafael would usually end up winning the tournaments.
Boris is doing just that. He is trying to work to take some pressure off the Serb and at the same time he is pushing his protégé to want and do better. After all, finishing a 2015 season like that one, being a husband and father, Novak could face a little tumble in relaxing. Boris is just making sure the Serb doesn’t lose his focus and determination. And to achieve that, the German is teasing his player comparing the Serb to the most beloved and most successful tennis player of his generation, someone who has broken all historic records in tennis, before Novak started to follow in his footsteps.
As the Serb makes history for himself, achieving something not even the Swiss Maestro Federer has ever done, winning the ATP Finals for 4 consecutive years, Boris just made sure Novak entered his resting time knowing what will be at stake for next season: Tennis history, the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) status.
Novak has picked up on that already, probably, and is both a little mad and extra motivated to prove his coach wrong. Just the extra motivation the Serb needed to start the new season on the right foot…
Tennis Braces Itself For Potential Coronavirus Chaos
No tennis player have tested positive for the virus, but the world of tennis could face multiple challenges over the coming months.
In a recent interview with ESPN China’s top player says he starts conversations by stating how many days he has been out of his country.
World No.136 Zhizhen Zhang continues to play on the tour around the world as his homeland deals with a serious disease that has now been declared as a global epidemic by the World Health Organisation. Coronavirus, which also goes by the name of Covid-19, has claimed the lives of more than 1000 people worldwide with the majority of the fatalities being in China. Officials believe the outbreak originated at a food market in Wuhan where the illegal trade of wild animals takes place.
“Whenever my parents call me, all they tell me is to not come back now,” Zhang told ESPN. “They want me to stay away from home and stay safe.”
Zhang is currently playing in India on the Challenger circuit, but lost his opening match in Bengaluru earlier this week. Due to his nationality, any signs of illness alert the doctors and those around him. As he recently found out.
“I visited the tournament doctor’s room because I was feeling uneasy and running a bit of a fever. When he learnt I’m from China, he was worried. Since I didn’t have a cough and I’d been out of the country for a while, it helped put everyone at ease,” the 23-year-old said. “Now wherever I go, when I tell people I’m from China, I make sure I add that I’ve not been to the country in two weeks.”
It isn’t just Asia, where there are concerns about the illness and how it can affect the world of tennis. Cases have also been identified in the UK, USA and Spain. However, it believed those infections was started by somebody who had travelled to the region.
In South America the Buenos Aires Open is currently taking place. This year’s field features six top 40 players, headlined by world No.14 Diego Schwartzman. They may be a long way away from China, but concerns remain.
“I was a little relieved to leave the Australian Open at the end of last month, because I knew it was a matter of days or weeks before the first case of coronavirus arrived. We were just a few hours by plane from the infectious outbreak in Asia.” La Nacion quoted Guido Pella as saying.
“We suffered the issue of forest fires (in Australia) which was terrible for everyone, but then the coronavirus approached. We are living a difficult and sensitive moment in the world.”
Horacio Zeballos is one of many parents on the tour who travel with both his wife and children to certain tournaments. The top seed in the men’s doubles tournament says he is always mindful of germs when going to various countries. A mindset he had before the Coronavirus outbreak.
“We try to have extreme cleanliness and always travel with alcohol gel. My wife is constantly washing the hands of the boys, mostly at airports. Then, we take some measures as not to put the suitcase on top of the bed to undo it or leave the stroller, which walks through all the streets, outside the room. With regard to the Coronavirus we do not take any action yet.” He said.
Tough times for Asian tennis
A series of tournaments have already been cancelled in China. Including multiple Challenger tournaments as well as a regional Fed Cup tie being moved to Dubai. Many understand that reason as to why, but nevertheless it is a financial issue for some on the tour.
World No.289 Sasikumar Mukund had planned to play no fewer than five tournaments in China over the next two months. Now they are cancelled, he has been left in limbo. The country was set to hold 14 Challenger tournaments in 2020.
“I don’t have a schedule, where can I plan next?” Sasikumar told The Hindu’s Sportstar on February 6th. “The tournaments got cancelled last Tuesday. For now the plan is to stay in Europe. I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward. The Olympics are at stake if it goes on like this!”
-Qujing CH 50 (Week of 2 March 2020)
-Zhuhai CH 80 (Week of 9 March 2020)
-Shenzhen CH 90 (Week of 16 March 2020)
-Zhangjiagang CH 80 (Week of 23 March 2020)
Strong chance of being cancelled/moved but not confirmed
-Taipei CH 125 (Week of 30 March 2020)
-Nanchang CH 80 (Week of 6 April 2020)
-Changsha CH 80 (Week of 13 April 2020)
-Anning CH 125 (Week of 20 April 2020)
If the outbreak isn’t contained later this year for whatever reason, the tennis calendar could be thrown into chaos. After the US Open, China will host a series of prestigious tournaments that will feature the best players in the world. Including the WTA Wuhan Open, which is the city where Coronavirus is said to originate from. In total the country will host eight WTA events between September and November, including the prestigious WTA Finals. On the ATP Tour four events are scheduled to take place during that period with the most high-profile being the Shanghai Masters.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for tennis in the region. This week the Thailand Open is taking place that features world No.4 Elina Svitolina. According to The Bangkok Post, officials have sprayed the venue with ‘environmentally friendly products’ to relieve fears about the virus.
“We want to show to the world that Thailand is safe after the coronavirus outbreak [in China],” said Suwat Liptapanlop, chief adviser of the organising committee.
“We want to tell foreigners that they can come to Thailand because this is a safe place.”
Another talking point concerns the Olympic Games, which will get underway on July 24th. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep are just some of the players who will be bidding to claim a gold medal in Tokyo. Japan has recently pledged to use 10.3 billion yen ofd the country’s budget in the fight against Coronavirus.
“I want to again state clearly that cancellation or postponement of the Tokyo Games has not been considered.” 2020 Games chief Toshiro Muto told reporters on Wednesday.
Tennis officials are hoping that they can take the same stance as Muto later this year during the Asian swing of the season. But for now it remains a nervous waiting game to see how much worse it will get.
Mr. Djokovic Isn’t Ready To Turn Over The Slams To Youth
Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier journalist James Beck reflects of the latest achievement of the world No.1.
The amazing Mr. Djokovic isn’t ready to turn over the Grand Slams to youth just yet. Not at just 32 years old.
Look at Roger Federer. He’s six years older and still capable of beating anyone on any surface on any given day.
And Rafa Nadal certainly isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Not at 33 years old, and just a tiebreaker or two from maybe replacing Dominic Thiem in Sunday night’s Australian Open men’s singles final.
There you have it, the Three Legends — Djokovic, Nadal and Federer. It’s highly unlikely they’re finished for the year at the Grand Slam level.
NOVAK SPECTACULAR DOWN THE STRETCH
For the last two sets of the Australian Open final, Novak Djokovic was just as spectacular as he was in 2008 when he won his first of eight Australian Open singles titles.
Djokovic brushed aside the talented Thiem when it appeared the new crop of stars was ready to take over from the Legends. That was the last two sets in a riveting 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 Djokovic win over the 26-year-old Thiem.
Unless Nadal gets hot the way he did last year when he won a pair of Grand Slam titles to give the Spaniard five of what now is 13 consecutive Grand Slam titles by the Three Legends, Djokovic could make the all-time Grand Slam title race really tight by the time he returns to Melbourne in a year from now.
FEDERER AND NADAL OBVIOUSLY FELT PRESSURE
Federer obviously was feeling the pressure in a semifinal loss to Djokovic a few days ago, even though Nadal’s chase of Federer’s record total of 20 Grand Slam titles was put on hold until at least the French Open by a loss to Thiem in the quarterfinals. Nadal also didn’t seem to be his self in the long match against Thiem in which he lost three tiebreakers.
But now Djokovic is only two shy of Nadal’s total of 19 Grand Slams, and three less than Federer.
Of course, passing or matching another legend’s all-time mark isn’t easy. Just ask Serena Williams about her chase of Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slam titles. Yes, Serena failed again at the Australian Open. We didn’t hear much from Serena after her third-round loss Down Under.
But Serena will keep trying, and maybe one of these remaining three opportunities of 2020 will be Serena’s day.
DJOKOVIC WASN’T HIMSELF IN THE MIDDLE SETS
Djokovic just wasn’t himself in the second and third sets, especially late in the second set when a double fault and two time violations, all in succession, took their toll on Novak and probably cost him the second set when he was serving at 4-4. Not only did he lose those three points and the game to fall behind 5-4, he lost seven straight points and six consecutive games.
That took care of the second set and most of the third set.
Suddenly, Novak was in a hole he had never before been in and survived at the Grand Slam final level. He was down two sets to one.
A LEGENDARY CAREER STILL GOING STRONG
Djokovic added a footnote to his still unfinished, but already legendary career by playing two of the greatest sets of his life to end Thiem’s immediate quest for a first Grand Slam title.
Thiem isn’t to be overlooked, however. He is amazingly talented. For awhile, Djokovic had no answer for Thiem’s powerful forehands and one-handed backhands, and super serve, not to mention his outstanding court coverage.
Outside of the Three Legends, Thiem appears to be in a class by himself. If he can last long enough, he almost certainly will become a legend himself one of these days.
James Beck is the long-time tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspaper. He can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his Post and Courier columns at
A Rude And Silly Reply From Nadal, I Am Waiting For His Apology
I asked Nadal an innocent question about his wedding; he took it so badly that he eventually burst into an offensive: “That’s bullshit”
LONDON – I was really surprised by Rafael Nadal’s reaction to a question that was quite innocent and totally legitimate. A reaction I consider unbecoming of him, rude and silly. I sincerely hope he will extend his apology for this behaviour. Respect remains paramount, no matter if you are the greatest champion or the new kid on the block. In front of everybody, Rafa disrespected me.
I hadn’t seen him since the Laver Cup in Geneva. And in the meantime,… he had gotten married. I had no intention whatsoever to ask a particularly original question or, as I have seen written in some tweets, to “show off”. And I certainly didn’t want to provoke him. Maybe the question did not come out the way I wanted: we always need to be concise during press conferences, and you cannot explain all the details, but what I wanted to ask was simply for him to explain whether the days around his wedding day had been emotional, different from the normal routine made of trainings, forehands and backhands. That’s all, no malicious innuendos, no desire to be irritating or original. I was just curious about what I considered a special moment in his life. Getting married is usually not like taking a walk in the park, even when it is possible to rely on a full team taking care of the arrangements – I assume that was the case for him – and there aren’t many details you have to worry about.
I am sorry I am forced to report such an ill-advised behaviour by Rafa Nadal of all people. He is a champion and, before that, a young man I have always appreciated, with whom I have had a good relationship ever since I saw him play for the first time in Montecarlo. He was just 17 years old, and one night he finished his match against Albert Costa very late, playing under the floodlights, in front of a scattered crowd, when most reporters had already left the Country Club to attend the traditional soirèe the tournament organizes every year at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club, next to the Jimmy’z.
This is the video footage of our exchange at the end of his English-language press conference, before the question time reserved for the Spanish press. Our dialogue starts at 10:50.
In essence, I asked Rafa if by any chance his wedding had been a disrupting element, albeit solemnly important, to his routine. This is the transcript of our interaction, with my notes in brackets.
Q. Tonight you were playing very short many times. I don’t know why, because you’re not used to that. I’d like to know, for many people to get married is a very important distracted thing (in the life of a man and a woman, it was implied) before the marriage, during the marriage, after the marriage. I’d like to know if somehow your concentration on tennis life has been a bit different even if you were going out with the same girl for many, many years (I was implying that it wasn’t love at first sight, I understand it didn’t turn his life upside down, but it still could have had some distracting effect, with the King of Spain being present and all… It wasn’t a small family wedding)
RAFAEL NADAL: Honestly, are you asking me this? Is a serious question or is a joke? Is it serious?
Q. It’s serious. (Off microphone.) Is not something that happens every day (at that point I had no microphone any longer so my retort was not captured by the official transcript), you can experience strong emotions, your parents, your wife, yourself…
RAFAEL NADAL: Okay. I surprise, is a big surprise for me you ask me this after I have been with the same girl for 15 years and having a very stable and normal life.
Doesn’t matter if you put a ring on your finger or not. In my personal way, I am a very normal guy.
Maybe for you was (did he want to add ‘different’) — how many years you have been with your…
Q. Wife 30 years this year.
RAFAEL NADAL: And before?
Q. (off microphone) 5 years
RAFAEL NADAL: Ah, maybe before you were not sure. That’s why (he smiles to the rest of the press room and he adds). Okay. Okay. We move to Spanish, because that’s bullshit. Thank you very much.
Unfortunately, due to some background chatter in the interview room I didn’t hear the “bullshit” word, I just read it on the transcript after a few colleagues made me notice he disrespected me. In fact, as soon as I went back to the press room, all colleagues, French, Swiss, even Spanish expressed their support to me because my question was perfectly legitimate, it was not engaging, mean, embarrassing or indelicate. So much so that when Rafa asked me whether it was a joke or a serious question, I immediately replied “It’s serious”. I was surprised he even had to ask.
The fact that Rafa has been together with Cisca, Francisca, Maria Francisca or Mer for 15 years does not imply that the days around his wedding, with 300 guests, friends, the King of Spain Juan Carlos ans other sporting legends were just like a walk in the park. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know whether Rafa’s parents, or Meri’s parents or some of their close friends cried, were moved to tears, experienced all those emotions that are normally coupled with weddings.
If Rafa did not experience any emotions just because he has been with the same woman for 15 years, that’s his problem. As far as I am concerned, maybe I’m just more romantic, or softer, but I thought it would be normal to get emotional in tying the knot with the woman of your life in front of so many people; an important, unforgettable moment. People usually live that day as a very special day. Rafa does not hold back expressing his emotions when he wins an important point on court – over and above his “vamos”, his jumps and his fist pumps – if his wedding day was a routine experience for him, but just the formalization of his union by exchanging rings with his fiancée… well, I am sorry for him. I don’t know what Xisca thinks about it. Judging from Rafa’s response, there should be no enthusiasm or emotion capable to upset his routine, when getting married after having been with the same woman for 15 years. He was even surprised when someone, like myself, asked him about possible emotions on his wedding day. I am stunned. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but I feel I should point this out because of the way he treated me.
To put it simply, I could not believe that even after dating the same woman for 15 years, the day before the wedding could be completely routine, without any emotional involvement. This is why I asked the question, without thinking it could be misinterpreted, or considered a joke, even less labeled as ‘bullshit’.
Perhaps Rafa was nervous because he had just lost a match (6-2, 6-4 without ever getting a break point) against an opponent he had always defeated before, Alexander Zverev. This could partially justify his behaviour, but he had not given any signs of nerves during the previous questions. I have always considered him an intelligent person. But sometimes even intelligent people make mistakes or say silly things. But they apologise afterwards. I hope Rafa is going to do it, sooner or later. If he won’t, never mind. But he will not make a very good impression to me or to all my colleagues, including the Spanish reporters from Puntodebreak and Eurosport who came to talk to me immediately after the incident.
I want to stress once again that my curiosity about how he may have reacted to an important moment in his life that I didn’t believe could be seen as a mere formality, was entirely innocent. He didn’t understand it, I hope someone will explain him, even if this for sure will not be an important moment in his life. Even if, in some way, we have been knowing and seeing each other for 15 years.
Article originally published in Italian on ubitennis.com
NOTE TO OUR READERS – In reference to the exchange occurred between myself and Rafael Nadal during the press conference following his first match, I have had a clarifying meeting after his win against Medvedev. We both have acknowledged the reasons that led to the misunderstanding and the subsequent exchange of unpleasant words, mainly due to our imperfect knowledge of the English language. This is it. We’ll turn the page, for everyone’s satisfaction, and Nadal and I maintain the mutual respect that has always been a cornerstone of our relationship. Our readers are naturally free to form their own opinion on this event, but at this stage any further comment would appear unnecessary. Thank you for your attention. (Ubaldo Scanagatta)
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