Boris Becker on why Novak Djokovic does not get the respect he deserves and Federer and Nadal’s ‘agenda’
In part two of the Eurosport Q&A with tennis legend Boris Becker, we asked him whether world No 1 Novak Djokovic gets the respect he deserves from the tennis community and asked the six-time Grand Slam champion who he thinks will win this year’s US Open.
Does Djokovic get the respect he deserves and if not, why not?
BB: “I don’t think so and that’s a very valid point. I think the tennis world on the men’s side is divided between [Roger] Federer fans and [Rafael] Nadal fans, and then comes Djokovic as somebody who crashes the party. There are many things he gets criticised about and today is another storm after he was correctly defaulted for the mistake of hitting the ball at the lines person. He apologised first of all to the woman, he apologised to the lady involved, he apologised to his fellow players, so he took responsibility for his mistake, but nobody is perfect.“
You have been in Djokovic’s camp as his former coach, so how does he react to the criticism that comes his way?
BB: “He doesn’t like it, nobody would like it, he is a people person most of all. He’s somebody that knows where he’s from, he’s a very proud Serbian, he does a lot of charity work back home, he has a huge charity, a huge foundation, and people don’t talk about that side, they talk about the street fighter, the one that breaks rules, that he’s a difficult guy. I don’t think he’s a difficult guy to be with, he’s a champion, he’s got character, he wants to win of course, but sometimes he gets the wrong end of the stick.”
Is Novak’s loss of control when matches turn against him a weakness he needs to iron out?
BB: “Look, he is a human being always and human beings are not perfect. He plays with his emotions, that is one of his character traits, he is strong and when he plays emotional, but when he gets too emotional he can lose his temper. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again, you’ve seen it with me and you’ve seen it with other players, it’s just what it is. I wonder whether all the disturbances of the last week, with the new players union he had started and I remember he tried to call the New York governor (Andrew) Cuomo a couple of days ago to get permission for matches, a lot of things that take away from your concentration, so maybe that was the reason why he lost his cool. But ultimately he is not perfect, things like that can happen, period.”
Are you surprised Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have refused to support Djokovic in his efforts to form a new players’ union?
BB: “I think Federer and Nadal have a different agenda, they are creating history and they have a history also of not getting too involved in politics. A lot of people say that’s very smart. On the other hand, they are the two most famous faces we have in tennis, so ideally there should have been a unified decision but then you have a difference of opinion, and so I think that’s the reason why. Not everybody is the same, the interest of Federer is different to Nadal and from Nadal it’s different to Djokovic. I would like to see a unified ATP and WGA, a union; I don’t think we have that right now.”
Who is the favourite to win the US Open on the men’s side?
BB: “It’s a whole new ball game all of a sudden. The top favourite is out, everybody that’s left in the tournament never won a slam, so it’s a new situation for everybody left. It can be nerve-racking to have this once in a lifetime chance, let’s see who handles it best. I couldn’t give you one name in particular, I think everybody that’s left has to be considered.”
Is your compatriot Alexander Zverev ready to become the next German Grand Slam champion at the US Open?
BB: “I’m not surprised by his development. I’m just surprised that so many so-called experts always said that he never had a chance to win a grand slam, maybe they will bite their tongues now. It’s certainly a chance for him but everybody else that’s left in the tournament. People forget sometimes, he’s only 23, he’s still a very young player and he will develop and mature nicely, and he will have a number of chances to win in Grand Slams and he could start right here at the US Open, but I think every Grand Slam he’ll play now he is good to go.”
Boris Becker is part of Eurosport’s US Open tennis coverage, on Eurosport and the Eurosport App across Europe (exc UK&Ire) – https://www.eurosport.com/tennis/
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