Of the big four tennis players at the top of the men’s game, Novak Djokovic had by far and away the worst 2017, his achievements this calendar year paling into insignificance when compared with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and one Andy Murray.
Such is the clamour for success, such a disappointing season would normally result in changes behind the scenes but the Serb has opted to keep American great Andre Agassi on his coaching staff. But has the 12-time Grand Slam champion made a mistake if he wants to add to his silverware tally?
To say that Agassi and Djokovic share paralleled careers would be an understatement; the American’s record four Australian Open titles bested in 2015 by Djokovic while the pair are two of just five players to have completed the career Grand Slam in the modern era. Both players are icons of their own eras, and yet in working together, the success expected has not yet followed.
In 2018, those wrongs will look to be corrected, but it is not that simple on paper. Having appointed Agassi as his coach in May to find a ‘winning spark’ having been knocked out of the Australian Open by a player outside the top 100 for the first time in his career, Djokovic made wholesale changes to his coaching staff but there was no quick fix.
Count on seeing Novak Djokovic and Andre Agassi together in 2018. pic.twitter.com/s0doNQ8Ea0
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) September 28, 2017
Despite winning the Eastbourne International – the Serb’s Wimbledon warm-up, Djokovic retired at the quarter-final stage of the main event against Tomas Berdych having exited at the same stage in the French Open months earlier.
Opting to sit out the rest of the season to recover from an elbow injury which was plaguing his post-prime career, Djokovic now has his sights set firmly on a return to some modicum of form in the New Year.
Missing the US Open brought to an end a run of 51 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments for the former world No.1 and he will be hoping that an extended rest is the answer to all his problems but one can’t help but feel that the current coaching regime is just a cover for the 30-year-old’s career coming to a faltering conclusion.
— Saša Ozmo (@ozmo_sasa) September 26, 2017
If anyone, though, can provide Djokovic with the inspiration to continue, Agassi is at the top of the list with the American having played at the top level until way into his mid-thirties, winning a final Grand Slam at the age of 33.
Like Djokovic, and many sports people the wrong side of the big ‘three o’, Agassi too competed with injuries and fatigue in the golden years of his career, and can no doubt provide Djokovic with the inspiration to continue and come back stronger while new physiotherapist Ulises Badio insists that recovery is the only thing between his client and a return to the pinnacle of the game.
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) September 28, 2017
Having worked with previous coach Marián Vajda for over a decade from 2006, it was always unlikely that Djokovic would give up on his new coach after just a few months, but is that a result of loyalty or the fact that the coaching team is immaterial if Djokovic is unable to recover just like his mentor earlier this century?