I LOVE NOVAK LIKE A BROTHER: BORIS BECKER -
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I LOVE NOVAK LIKE A BROTHER: BORIS BECKER

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Novak Djokovic is my brother from another mother. We call each other ‘family’ and that’s as close as you can be.

I got to know Novak on and off the court during my three-year spell as his coach between 2013 and 2016, and since then our relationship has only become stronger. I have seen the way he is with his family and friends. His sense of humour. I have seen the important work he does – together with his wife, Jelena – on his foundation. I have seen much more than the technical, machine-like guy we all see on court. I got to see his heart – and it’s a good one.

He is 36 now. That longevity is his greatest strength and it’s a quality he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Anybody can have a good week, even a good year, but to do it over 15, 16, 17, 18 years is exceptional. That’s what sets those three players apart.

Novak is still winning – he’s the reigning Australian and French Open champion and who would bet against him when he walks out at Wimbledon? – but his game has changed since I coached him. It had to. The locker room doesn’t sleep. They watch you, study you, search out your weaknesses. If you don’t constantly improve, then you’re going to be left behind.

How has Novak done that? When you are 36 and the guy over the net from you is 22, you don’t want to get into too many 20-stroke baseline rallies. His serve has improved, so has his net play. It all leads to him winning points a bit quicker.

 

Another thing that set Novak, Roger and Rafa apart is mentality. So much of tennis is in the mind, and they use the smallest sign of weakness to their advantage. It’s about match management, how you react in a certain situation to what your opponent gives you. The up-and-coming generation must learn more than the forehand, backhand and serve.

But they are learning. I like Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune. Sinner has everything you need to be a successful tennis player: he’s got the supporting cast, the attitude, he’s good on all surfaces and has a fighting spirit. Rune could also go a long way – he’s a bit more aggressive than Sinner. I like watching them play each other.

But let’s talk about Carlos Alcaraz… it was always written in the stars for him. When I first saw him play I could see he was something special. You always look for the X-factor with young athletes and he definitely had it. He’s not just a talented young player, he’s already the world No.1. It’s very difficult to win your first Grand Slam, especially as a teenager. It’s even harder to win again. From the hunter, you become the hunted. But Alcaraz is already a dominating presence in tennis – and that’s coming from Spain, where they have a guy called Nadal. It’s quite a heavy burden to carry, but he does so with ease. Nadal won his first Slam at 19. So did Alcaraz. Nadal won the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award in 2006 and it was only fitting that Alcaraz won it this year, 2023, after picking up his first Grand Slam, the US Open, in 2022.

 

I have been involved with Laureus from the very beginning. In 2000 I was honoured to be asked to be a founding member of the Laureus World Sports Academy– the former champions who drive the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. I’ve since formed deep friendships with all the other Academy members. We’re now up to 71. We’re colleagues, friends and people fighting for the same cause – using sport as a tool for change. I have so many memories from those 20-plus years. I’ve been to projects in India, Germany and USA. Every time, you see how the language of sport is such a strong communicator.

Boris Becker is a Member of Laureus – a sporting movement supported by the world’s greatest athletes, which celebrates and harnesses the power of sport. @LaureusSport

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