Following the conclusion of the Internazionali di Italia Open in Rome, Novak Djokovic announced that he would be working with tennis great Andre Agassi during the upcoming Roland Garros.
Djokovic referred to parting ways with longtime coach Marian Vajda as “shock therapy.” The realization that his results had declined incredibly and astonishingly over the course of the last twelve months meant that he had to make a considerable change to a set up that had brought him so much success in the years gone by.
Not many people would have expected Agassi to return to tennis in such a way, especially in one of the most high-profile roles in tennis, but you could argue that Agassi and Djokovic complement each other perfectly in many ways.
A lot has been made of Djokovic’s slump since last year’s French Open. Many suggested that he needed time to rediscover his motivation for tennis after achieving the career Slam and winning his first-ever French Open. Some players would usually take a step away from the sport, but Djokovic fought through the adversity and continued to plough through tournament after tournament.
Djokovic and Agassi have undeniable similarities. The first and most important of similarities is that they both faced their fair share of adversity and low periods during their career. Agassi won three Grand Slams and reached the pinnacle of the sport before he lost enthusiasm and motivation, and lacked desire to continue to play at such a high level in such a demanding sport. The major difference is that Agassi fell outside the World’s Top 100, whereas Djokovic is still substantially better than the majority of his counterparts, hence why he is still the World No. 2 player. For Djokovic it is about steadying the ship and putting things right before the decline becomes even more of a drastic process and he believes Agassi can be that missing piece in the Serbian’s jigsaw as he rallies for Grand Slam No. 13 in the coming weeks.
The reason why the appointment of Agassi is so fascinating is because of what Agassi achieved after the period of disarray. He won five more Grand Slams and subsequently turned his career around in one of the most special comebacks in professional tennis.
The way both players approached the game of tennis has similarities in itself too. Agassi is renowned as one of the game’s greatest returners of all time and Djokovic has built a reputation as the best returner in the game at present, so it will be fascinating to see the advice Agassi imposes on Djokovic’s game in that particular department.
For this Agassi and Djokovic partnership, it is about smoothing out the fine details and most of that lies in the mental side of the game. The difference between a regular Top 5 player and someone who sits outside the Top 10 is usually because of the mentality of the player in question. The Serbian was one of the best at beating his players down physically but most significantly from a mental standpoint, which separated him from the rest of the field. Former coach Boris Becker actually managed to improve the mentality of Djokovic to the point where he was virtually unbeatable, so new coach Andre Agassi has to refresh the mind of Djokovic to the point where he feels unstoppable regardless of the situation on court. Agassi could be the answer to Djokovic’s problem in the near future.
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