Article by Tennis Magazine, April 2014, translated by Tennis Buzz.

When a number 1 from yesterday meets a number 1 from today, what do they talk about? Stories of number 1 of course!
But what can these legends bring to champions whose achievements have nothing to envy theirs? That’s the question… One thing is sure: the 80’s and 90’s are trendier than ever. In fact, the courts took a very vintage look lately.

Two legends, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, but also Michael Chang, Sergi Bruguera and Goran Ivanisevic have made their return to the circuit at the Australian Open, alongside their peers.
Ivan Lendl was a pionneer, as he started working with Andy Murray two years ago. But the trend took momentum in the offseason, with associations between Cilic and Ivanisevic (November), Gasquet and Bruguera (end of November), Nishikori and Chang (mid-December), and at last but not at least, two partnerships who had some kind of a bomb effect, Djokovic with Becker and Federer with Edberg (end of December).

What can these former great players add compared to a conventional coach? And why the glories of yesterday have chosen to come back on the circuit? With interviews of players and coaches, Tennis Magazine updates on these duos.

Without a doubt, to have Ivan Lendl by my side was a real bonus.

Readily acknowledged Andy Murray after his first Grand Slam victory at the US Open in 2012, nine months after the beginning of his collaboration with the Czech.
The pair, intriguing at first, was conclusive. Their two parallel respective experiences were obvious: like his coach, Andy Murray finally captured his maiden Grand Slam title after four defeats in the finals.

I knew what he was going through and the frustration that he could feel, explained Ivan Lendl .

Former champions turning to coaching is nothing new. Some have not left a great memory in this role. Mats Wilander with Paul-Henri Mathieu and Marat Safin, Jimmy Connors with Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova were not really successful. But what’s surprising today is the high number of these collaborations that almost occured at the same time. So, simple coincidence or new trend?

Tennis has always followed trends. Two years ago you had to eat like Djokovic, and 3 players out of 4 found out they were “allergic” to gluten. Now your coach must be a former number 1 or 2 when you are a top 10 player.

Critic, Patrick Mouratoglou distrusts the new trend. So, what can be the actual contribution of these former legends of yesterday to today’s great players?

Their experience is of course their first quality. The top players are seeking some sort of alter ego, someone who like them has experienced the stress of tennis at the highest level.

I was looking for someone who had experienced similar situations, and I thought of Boris, explained Novak Djokovic

Same speech for Marin Cilic, who saw in his compatriot Goran Ivanisevic the ideal person to take him in the top 10.

It is important to have the support from someone like him . He brings me all his experience, and all the things he experienced in his career.

Just as Richard Gasquet who found in Sergi Bruguera a champion who has experienced a very high level with two Grand Slam victories (Roland Garros 1993 and 94), Andy Murray explains how working with someone who has been there can be benefical:

All these players know the state of mind you must have when you play for major finals. And maybe, knowing the situation themselves, they better understand certain decisions taken on the court, under pressure, while it is more difficult to grasp for someone who has never known it.

For Sam Sumyk, Victoria Azarenka’s coach, the experience of high level is an undeniable asset:

They have a greater background than mine for example. They have an asset that lambda coach do not have: the anticipation. They understand better what is going to happen, they have more instinct to know how the player will react on different situations.

For Patrick Mouratoglou , despite his reserves, there is a special relationship between all these legends:

They can talk the same language and shed a different light, or alternatively strengthen positions

For Patrice Hagelauer, Yannick Noah’s coach when he won Roland Garros in 1983:

Former champions see things and analyze them with more objectivity. They are not in emotions like a coach who lives these situations for the first times can be.

If one can understand this process for players looking to access to the highest level like Gasquet, Cilic and Nishikori, it is less evident for Federer or Djokovic, who have at least as much, if not more,
experience at the high level that their own coach and already an outstanding record.

Even though he already has a beautiful trophy case, Novak is not satisfied with his six Grand Slam titles. He wants more and he wants the better team around him to improve, said Boris Becker in Melbourne

Novak Djokovic choice has surprised. How to interpret the world number 2 decision to shake up his stability with his historic coach, Marian Vajda, while he was on the rise after a fantastic year-end. Novak Djokovic wants to see further:

When you change something in your life, it is always risky, but I do not want to think like that. I chose not to be in fear of change.

Novak Djokovic, who has not won a Grand Slam since the Australian Open in 2013 or Roger Federer, seeking
his former glory, want to see in these new collaborations a way to improve again, or return to the top .

Even champions of the caliber of Federer or Djokovic can still improve and change things in their game, says Sam Sumyk. This is the advantage of high level, this is not just the technique of a forehand or backhand,
there are lots of parameters that come into play. The help Edberg can bring to Federer or Becker to Djokovic is on details. It can be in all areas: technique , way of thinking , or state of mind.

Former champion and coach of Lendl , the Pole Wojtek Fibak is more direct :

What they bring is their presence. That’s all, but it is not nothing.

Stefan Edberg also thinks his help will be in the details:

I think I can really bring a little something. And maybe that little something can bring back Roger to where he was some time ago.

A sentence pronounced before the Dubai tournament, where Federer beat Djokovic for the first time in almost two years.

At this level , the difference is therefore on things sometimes insignificant, although difficult to define:

The higher you go, the more you have to unlock things that are difficult to perceive, to feel, said Arnaud Di Pasquale

Eveyone agrees on this, Roger Federer will not revolutionize his game and play the serve and volley constantly to “please” Stefan Edberg, the same goes for Novak Djokovic. But according to the Serbian, Boris Becker contributions can be numerous:

He can help me progress on a lot of aspects of my game: serve, return, volley. But his most important help is on the mental part.

Roger Federer, like Wotjek Fibak, prefers to talk about inspiration rather than mental concerning the presence of Stefan Edberg, his childhood idol, at his side.

I did not hire Edberg to explain me how to come to the net. For me, it is something else, a global thing. I don’t see him in the role of a coach, but more as an inspiration, a legend spending time with me.

Beyond the technical, tactical or physical aspect, the help would be, in general, psychological.

Basically it comes from a need to be reassured, explains Patrice Hagelauer. They seek confidence and serenity
they sometimes lost and need to confide in a champion, who is somehow their equal. I don’t see that as a work of a coach, it is more psychology.

Here we are far away from the role of the coach, in the strict sense, but more in the role of an advisor.

It is a bonus to surround themselves with someone who has experienced the highest level, but the contribution of the great champion does not replace the role of the coach, explains Di Pasquale.

We must not forget that coach is first of all a full-time job, says Mouratoglou.

Without removing anything to the experience of the great champions, a great player does not necessarily make a good coach, while most coaches were not No. 1 or Grand Slam winners.

You can learn how to do this or that shot even if you were not able to do it yourself at very high level, the French system proves it, says Arnaud Di Pasquale .

But only time will tell the impact of these former champions on today’s champions. But it’s obvious it is difficult to compare the cases of Federer and Djokovic and those of Cilic or Nishikori who are still quite far from the top. And the job of a full-time coach has nothing to do with the role that Edberg and Becker play.
We’re not going to find a single answer to very different situations. How else to explain the success of players who keep the same coach for a very long time, if not forever? Like Rafael Nadal, for example …

Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl

From L’Unità by Federico Ferrero
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello

In the tennis community, the alignment of stars looks like something magic. Everybody knows of the professional relationship, just as solid as the former Czech’s massive jaw, tying Ivan Lendl and Andy Murray: to merge the destinies of the terrible Ivan and the Scottish boy, a dream named Wimbledon. Now expired for the former number one who tried anything, even skipped the French Open, not to give up that last, desperate chance. But won only two shots against the target of the sacred fire of the Championships and failed both in 1986 and 1987. As a coach, on the other hand, Lendl has been able to eradicate the virus that weakened Murray in the Grand Slam, with the vaccine that he himself had experienced after four finals lost in Paris, Australia, and New York in the early eighties; Andy repaid him violating the ground of Wimbledon, for the delight of the British fans.

You know the news: former champion training a champion. There’s more, though. In these few weeks of preparation for the upcoming season, Roger Federer has withdrawn in his plastic hermitage of Dubai, where he sweats and moves, like the arms of the goddess Kali, parts of his business activities, especially those in real estate. The fallen king, after the upset of the last few months spent with an aching back, invited to share his training camp not a kid chosen among the juniors, or one of the lately unemployed professional coaches. He called Mr. Stefan Edberg, the master of the lost art of serve & volley, the heron with Scandinavian blood and movements inspired to Nureyev’s.

After splitting up with Paul Annacone, veteran Federer is still looking for an advisor for the last stage of his professional life: “We preferred to have him come here, away from everything,” because Roger is one who speaks in the plural and includes in his reasoning the faithful collaborator, and who knows what else, Davis Cup captain Severin Lüthi. But he himself decides; what he has thought for 2014 is not given to know, and yet there is a class wedding in the air.

A wedding, however, that has just been celebrated at Djokovic‘s, it will be not as fine and elegant but seems to be the answer to that same design from above: the name chosen by Nole, in fact, is Boris Becker. Bum Bum, the phenomenal boy of Wimbledon ’85, the diver of total tennis. So the Triad of the game of modern era would be ready to be reunited with weird similarities: Becker was never able to run his tank over Paris, Djokovic, equally, is chasing in the City of Light the last Slam missing in his own collection. Like Lendl and Murray, from a failure and a half as singles to the common triumph. Novak has convinced his longtime mentor, Marian Vajda, to submit to the role of assistant coach, now the team leader is Boris, who has not done much to keep his reputation after retirement. Aged 46, in the third millennium Becker has been known for his poker mania and a facelift, but Nole is enthusiastic, and so is Boris: “I am sure that together we will have great gratifications,” which will have to pass through the dismantling of Rafa Nadal. The only one who remained faithful to the family agreement, Rafa, at the moment working in Manacor with Uncle Toni to start biting at the next Australian Open.

If astrology were a science in tennis, Nadalito should alert us of a new liaison, maybe with the crazy John McEnroe. To restore a wise men committee, Ivan, Stefan, Boris, MacGenius, legends of a heartbreaking, varied tennis, knocked out by a bulldozer called progress.

Which partnership will be the most successful in 2014?

  • Federer-Edberg (57%, 24 Votes)
  • Djokovic-Becker (29%, 12 Votes)
  • Murray-Lendl (14%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 42

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For more infos on Federer-Edberg partnership, check out Mauro’s website STE… fans