Does the Djokovic-Agassi Pair Make Sense?
This Sunday, Novak Djokovic revealed that 8 time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi will be coaching him through the French Open. Is this a sudden development, or something that has been brewing for months? Will Andre be able to bring back some of Djokovic’s lost dominance?
There is no question that Djokovic has been having some ups and downs. The start of 2017 was a myriad of upsets and injuries, and the question was whether Djokovic would be able to retain his French Open title and his 4,600 points that he accumulated on clay. His recent upset at the Italian Open by upcoming star Zverev only leaves Djokovic more vulnerable than before, and with the clay court rats just looming in the locker rooms, ready to prey on signs of weakness, calling in Agassi may be just the thing that Novak needs right now.
However, will Andre really be able to bring about a change in Novak’s game? Andre is known for his aggressive baseline game, and I mean toes-on-the-baseline-no-matter-what game. Novak is already a master of the aggressive baseline game, given that he does prefer to stand a few feet behind the baseline. Yes, Andre is known for his ability to grind, to run down every single ball, to hang in there when the times get rough, but Novak is already feared for these things too.
Then again, maybe it will be good for Novak to have someone who is the complete opposite of Becker when it comes to game style. Teaching an old horse new tricks is hard, and that’s what Becker was trying to do. Results; almost negligible. Djokovic did try to approach the net, he tried hard, he tried his best just like he always does, but it was never able to become an integral part of his game.
Andre can help Djokovic consolidate his strengths. Novak’s out-maneuvering from the baseline style of play will only intensify under the tutelage of Andre since he had a similar style himself. The half-step head start that Djokovic used to have may very well become a full-step head start and that would honestly make all the difference. But will Andre be able to provide the emotional energy that Djokovic thrives on?
In simple terms, Becker was the epitome of on court energy. It would be a disgrace to compare even Nadal’s most energetic outbursts to Becker’s. Becker was able to provide that type of energy for Novak, even when he was sitting in the player’s box through his yells of triumph and intense fist pumps. Unfortunately, Andre isn’t as vocal. Most of his mental strength came from within, and there are serious doubts about whether he will be able to pump Djokovic up the same way that Becker used to, and that lack of energy could be Novak’s downfall, especially considering his heavy reliance on energy from crowd support and his box.
All in all, a trade off will have to be made. Will Andre’s tactical knowledge that uniquely compliments Novak’s game make up for loss of emotional energy and drive? We’ll find out sooner than later at the French Open.
4 thoughts on “Does the Djokovic-Agassi Pair Make Sense?”
I agree, Agassi really cannot and should not bring anything new to his game.
Novak needs a lot of stroking. Constant praise and reassurance. Will be interesting to see if Agassi can provide that. There’s nothing wrong with Novak’s game. He seems to be unhappy and no one can fix that but him. He has been fueled by defiance more than love of the sport. For years, he’s been trying to prove to everyone that he deserves their ‘love’. He put so much emotional energy into winning the FO last year, in an attempt to win everything there is to win and to get the adulation that Roger and Rafa get. It didn’t happen. He was one of the few ever to hold all 4 Major titles and no one seemed to care. That deflated him so completely, he can’t get focused or motivated to keep going. That’s why he’s got Pepe the guru in his box. He looks out of sorts, miserable and out of sync on the court. If he can’t find the passion within himself, he should just take his millions and retire.
You do have a point there. There is nothing wrong with his game but age does affect your game overall and then there are newcomers who are hungrier.
Novak’s largest problem is that he has this undying need to be loved. The way he “transformed” himself into a crowd favorite is through phoniness if you ask me – the excessive hugging of opponents when he loses, the “giving my heart” routine when he wins. It’s nauseating.
Reading bettyscott’s comment and I mostly agree, except with the part about “no one seemed to care” that he held all four major titles at the same time – that was a HUGE story and he received praise from pretty much every single player, including his biggest rivals. It just so happened that Wimbledon was 3 weeks later when he suffered his first early loss in like 7 years.
As much as people love to talk about Novak’s “mental toughness”, I don’t really see it. He has a great mentality when he’s winning, when the fans are supporting him, and when everyone in his team is praising him. But what about when those things aren’t true? To make another Kyrgios comparison, think to his semifinal vs Federer in Miami – crowd on his ass for the entire match, and he was still 2 points away from winning it. The old Novak could do that – think 2015 US Open final – but that Novak is long gone.