The Coaching Arms Race is On
Andy Murray has been working with Ivan Lendl for 2 years. This partnership has yielded 1 Wimbledon title, 1 US Open title, 1 Gold Medal, 1 Wimbledon runner-up finish, and 1 Australian Open runner-up finish.
Becker is Back
Murray’s successes with Lendl plus Nadal’s improbable dominance after knee injuries had to play a part in Novak Djokovic hiring Boris Becker as his coach. My father, Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors got me to become interested in tennis as a kid. I am excited to see Becker assume a more active role on the tour. I am not sure what this partnership will bring, but I don’t find it to be as odd as some have. If Becker can help Djokovic manage his service games slightly more effectively, his results at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open might be different in 2014.
Is Edberg Back?
Federer picking Edberg’s brain also makes sense to me. Roger had a rough year in 2013. If working out with one of his idols gives him positivity heading into 2014, it has already been a plus. It is unclear if this will be a regular working relationship or a one-time training session. Still, Federer does not have the legs at 32 to play super patient tennis. He’s been plagued with errors, but that may be a price of age. Perhaps a more aggressive set of tactics plus a more powerful racquet will allow Roger to try to dictate play as often as possible.
At 32, grinding through days when he only has his B game is not a winning strategy for Roger. I doubt we will see a return to classic serve and volley tennis. As a tactic, it can be effective, but passing shots are easier to hit with today’s strings than at any point in my lifetime. Edberg dictated play when he won and when he lost. He was going to play his way. If Federer can dictate play the majority of the time, perhaps he can play at ease and just see what happens. If a new frame allows him to hit more aces and service winners, Federer might be able to hang around in sets when he is not playing his best and take some chances from 4-4 forward in a set. Applying pressure at 4-4, 30-30 during a return game is something Federer’s fans likely want to see.
Will Nadal Add Someone?
I don’t see it. Uncle Toni sculpted Rafa’s game. Rafa has plenty of hitting partners. He works with people at various events when Uncle Toni is not traveling with Rafa. With the exception of some of the retired Spanish champions, I can’t see Rafa adding a high profile ex-player to his team as this would create a second center of gravity in his coaching camp. Uncle Toni is his coach. Jimmy Connors had a family driven coaching arrangement as well. I’d give Connors a 2-3% chance of a part-time consultation with Team Rafa. Players such as Jim Courier or Thomas Muster have an even lesser chance to formally consult Rafa. If Novak runs the table in the first portion of 2014, Rafa might be more open to matching the moves of his rivals, but when you’re number one making changes is not a high priority. When one has rituals and is number one, upsetting those rituals seems downright silly.