Coach class as legends hit Open limelight

If Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic have done their jobs properly, then Monday’s US Open final will be between Novak Djokovic and Marin Cilic.


Becker and Ivanisevic may not be playing tennis anymore but they are having an impact in New York as two of the weekend’s four-strong celebrity coaching brigade.

Becker works with world number one Djokovic, former Wimbledon winner Ivanisevic is in Cilic’s corner, Stefan Edberg is the power behind Roger Federer while the US Open’s fourth semi-finalist, Kei Nishikori, hired 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang.

If their own playing head-to-head records were duplicated in Saturday’s semi-finals, then Djokovic and Cilic would come out on top – Becker enjoyed a record of 5-1 against Chang, while Ivanisevic was 10-9 against Edberg.

However, Federer won’t be influenced by such history after Edberg, a back-to-back US Open winner in 1991 and 1992 and a six-time major champion, engineered the Swiss star’s stunning fightback from two match points down in his five-set quarter-final win over Gael Monfils.

“I started to serve and volley some more as the match went on,” said Federer, who takes a 5-0 career lead over Cilic into his semi-final.

“I’m happy I’m spending some time at the net, because that’s going to keep giving me confidence to keep on doing that as we move along in the tournament.”

Of all the star coaching appointments, Becker’s was undoubtedly the most surprising when he signed up with world No.1 Djokovic.

The six-time major winner – including the 1989 US Open – enjoyed a lucrative media career when he agreed to work alongside Marian Vajda, who has handled the Serb since his teenage years.

“He believes in my game,” said Djokovic who faces Nishikori in his semi-final on Saturday looking to reach the US Open final for a fifth successive year.

Becker said that he sees similarities between himself and Djokovic, both equally extrovert on and off the court.

“I see in Novak a little bit of Boris Becker,” he said.

“I see him against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and he doesn’t always get a fair deal from the crowd. I live with Novak. Whenever he makes a mistake I feel that I make it too.”

Ivanisevic started working with Cilic in November 2013 just as the young Croat was returning to the tour after serving a doping ban.

Together, they reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and now a first-time spot in the US Open semi-finals.

“The main part that is coming from Goran to me and what I feel in this relationship is big confidence,” said Cilic, who made the last-four by knocking out sixth-seeded Czech Tomad Berdych.

Chang has been with Nishikori since December and has his own little bit of history at the US Open – in 1987, aged 15, he became the youngest man to win a match at the tournament.

Nishikori, the first Japanese man since 1918 to make the semi-finals, has a 1-1 record against Djokovic and Chang believes that there’s no reason why the 24-year-old can’t take a second win.

“Absolutely. He’s beaten Novak before. There’s no reason why he’s not able to do it again. Come Saturday, I think it’s going to be a great match,” Chang told the New York Post.

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