NOVAK Djokovic has credited the hiring of fellow grand slam champion Boris Becker as a masterstroke as the world No 1 Serb attempts to cement his superiority at this month’s Australian Open.Suffering the lingering effects of a viral infection ahead of a doubles tilt at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Djokovic said Becker had emerged as a driving force.
Since joining forces with triple Wimbledon champion Becker, Djokovic has returned to the top of the rankings — but still senses there is plenty of scope for improvement.
“Boris Becker joining our team 12 months ago has brought a new fresh, I think, perspective of observation on my game,” Djokovic said.
“He’s contributing and sharing his advices on how he sees my mental approach to the big tournaments, big matches, and of course my game in general.
“As I said before, start to serve and volley and kind of follow his style of play, but I’m going to work on certain elements of my game that hopefully can be improved even more.
“One of them was serve, of course, that a couple of years back wasn’t I think as good as it is today.
“Today I’m able, in some big matches, to get a lot of free points on the first serve which definitely, you know, allows me to feel more confident on the court, because my game is based on the baseline, so I have many opportunities to close out the point and come to the net and make some points shorter.
“Those are certain, I would say, specifics that we are working in the game right now.
“Of course we are always eager, as everybody else, to improve to get the game on certain highest level possible.”
Djokovic has opened a yawning gap at the head of the rankings with a 1735-point lead over world No 2 Roger Federer.
The baseliner has lost only one match since falling in the US Open semi-finals to Kei Nishikori and, providing he recovers quickly from illness, will remain favourite to claim a fifth Australian Open crown from January 19.
The reigning Wimbledon champion decided to contest Doha for the first time because of the long gap between the end of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London in mid-November and the new season.
He said he did not know the exact nature of the illness but was confident he was recovering.
“Well, the nature of the illness, I can’t really say,” he said. “I think it’s many things combined.
“I believe that I maybe overused myself in certain aspects of my life, combining the practice and the family and business on the side and several things that I had, so maybe the body told me I had to slow down a little bit, and so that’s how it reacted.
“But it happens to everybody. I didn’t get ill many times in last four, five years, so my body is still managing to fight with the flu in pretty efficient way.
“So I just am hoping I can protect my wife (Jelena) and baby (Stefan).
“That’s why I’m trying not to be close to them even though they are here. we spent our first New Year together and first (Serbian) Christmas that is coming up in two days for us, so it’s really exciting to have them on the side.”
Djokovic faces compatriot Dusan Lakovic tonight in singles after sweeping to 6-1 6-4 doubles success with fellow Serb Filip Krajinovic against Jabor Ali Mutawa and Malek Jaziri.
Rafael Nadal meets German qualifier Michael Berrer after partnering Argentine Juan Monaco to a 6-3 6-3 win over Italian Simone Bolelli and Argentine Leonardo Mayer
First round singles winners in Doha ncluded Richard Gasquet, Bolelli, and Dustin Brown on a quiet session.
Tonight’s singles session promises fireworks with Djokovic, Nadal, Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer all slated for centre court action.
Originally published as Djokovic praises coach Becker