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.