Boris Becker reveals why he was ‘worried’ about Novak Djokovic for the first time

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic battling the heat at the Australian Open
Novak Djokovic battling the heat at the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic is through to his 11th Australian Open semi-final, yet his former coach Boris Becker admitted he had concerns for the Serbian during his win against Taylor Fritz.

Djokovic had beaten American Fritz in all eight of their previous meetings but was a much more challenging encounter, with the top seed finally securing a 7-6 (3) 4-6 6-2 6-3 victory after three hours and 45 minutes.

The first game alone lasted 16 minutes and the first set 84 minutes as they toiled in the heat on Rod Laver Arena.

Fritz, looking to reach a slam semi-final for the first time at the third attempt, remarkably saved all 15 break points he faced in the opening two sets, and he impressively levelled the contest.

It was just the third set he had won against the Serbian, with the other two both coming in a third-round clash here in 2021, when Djokovic suffered an abdominal injury but still managed to win in five.

But Djokovic began to turn the screw in the third set as Fritz started to feel his left foot, and successive breaks in the fourth set him on the way to a record-extending 48th Grand Slam semi-final.

The match went the way most experts expected in the end, but three-time Wimbledon champion Becker conceded he had worries Djokovic may be losing his way amid a draining opening two sets.

“After the second set, I was worried about my dear Novak for the first time – physically as well, because he was breathing a lot,” Becker told Eurosport.

“In the ten minutes that Fritz was in the dressing room, Novak recovered. When he got the first break in the third set, I was sure that he would win the match.

“That was hard work. The first set lasted over 90 minutes.”

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Djokovic also gave his views to Eurosport, as he suggested the key to his victory was as much physical as it was technical.

“It was one of the longest games I’ve ever played in extremely hot conditions, the hottest of the year no doubt,” said the defending champion.

“Taylor came out with a. clear game plan and with the right sharpness, he was pressing me from the baseline, playing very aggressively and making me run. I was on the back foot a lot.

“When you serve as well as he does, it’s difficult. The first couple of sets were a real struggle, physically, mentally, emotionally. In the third, I was able to start very well and the sun came down and cooled the temperature. I felt, much better in the third and in particular, the fourth.

“I took his legs for sure, it was a lot of running. My conversion on break points today was really poor but also due to his high level. You just have to say congrats and move on in these moments.

“I had my composure and served very well which helped me. Let’s be humble, the confidence is there but matches are only going to get tougher.”

Djokovic also confirmed he enjoyed his on-court interview with Nick Kyrgios, who he beat in the 2022 Wimbledon final.

“I guess it was his first one on the court, but he’s doing great, he’s doing really well,” added Djokovic.

“I think he is so refreshing for our sport. Both with a racquet and in the commentary box. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you (Barbara Schett), Jim Courier, John McEnroe, Mats (Wilander), they’re all doing a great job. But it’s great to see Nick.

“He has been a controversial character over the years but I like the way he speaks his mind and he is fun to watch and I had a blast with him on the court.”

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