Andre Agassi on coaching Novak Djokovic for free and Steffi Graf’s role in accepting job
Andre Agassi revealed to Boris Becker that his decision to become Novak Djokovic’s new coach was thanks in part to Steffi Graf.
Agassi has been married to 22-time Grand Slam winner Graf since 2001, and it was she who inspired the American to work with Djokovic, who opted to part company with his entire coaching staff May.
Djokovic also turned 30 last month, and described the move as ‘shock therapy’ in a bid to recapture the form which saw him complete a career Grand Slam at last year’s French Open.
Boris Becker and Andre Agassi before Novak Djokovic first match in Roland GarrosGetty Images
Becker himself had coached Djokovic for three trophy-laden years, but the duo parted ways in November after Djokovic lost his number one ranking to Andy Murray.
And Agassi was speaking to Becker for Eurosport when he opened up about the phone call which kick-started the unlikely partnership.
“It was a surprise for me! I got a call from him late in Monte Carlo after he was done, and he wanted to talk tennis,” Agassi said.
“He wanted to talk the possibility of working and I said listen, maybe I can help you over the phone, I don’t think you need much, but this is not possible for me with the balance of my life. And then Steffi says, ‘Maybe you’ll enjoy it’. I said, ‘You think?’.
Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi at Wimbledon back in 2012Getty Images
“I respect her so much so I said okay, I’ll go early since I have to be in Paris anyway, and I’ll just get to know him. A very inspirational guy for me.”
Agassi also revealed that he is not being paid to mentor Djokovic, insisting that he simply wants to help the Serbian rediscover his form of old.
“For me, I do this on my own time and my own dime,” Agassi added. “I don’t want money, I want to help him. And it helps the game. Him at his best is good for the game and it’s a way I can contribute.
And the possibility of coaching Djokovic at Wimbledon? “If he wants me there, yeah, I will come,” said Agassi. “It’s a lot of responsibility so whatever’s practical and achievable – 100 per cent I will make the effort.”
Novak Djokovic of Serbia in discussion with coach Andre Agassi during practice on day one of the 2017 French Open at Roland GarrosReuters
From old coach to new, Becker then asked what part of Djokovic’s game he would specifically work on.
“There’s a difference between what I want and now in the French Open, so I don’t want him thinking too much so that he stops doing what comes naturally to him,” Agassi added.
“For me, it’s simple. His game is about controlling the baseline and it’s built on executing to big targets. He’s not a guy who plays to lines, he’s a guy who throws body blow after body blow after body blow, and he’s just never though a lot about the other side of the court.
“So I think there are ways he can take his game, at 30 years old, and older – because hopefully he will want to play for a while – and he will start making it easier for himself by knowing what he should do with the guy across the net.”