Pair mutually decided to end collaboration
Becker joined coaching team in late 2013
Djokovic didn't name a replacement
The Serb slumped in the second half of 2016
Another chapter was added to Novak Djokovic’s tumultuous year when the Serb announced he was parting company with coach Boris Becker, ending a fruitful partnership that produced six grand slam titles in three years.
Speculation that the German wouldn’t be part of Djokovic’s team next year has been rife and when the retired six-time grand slam winner couldn’t confirm to CNN late last month with the campaign over that an agreement was in place to continue their collaboration, a split seemed the inevitable conclusion.
Indeed, Djokovic took to social media to break the news late Tuesday.
“After three very successful years, Boris Becker and I have jointly decided to end our cooperation,” Djokovic said on his official Facebook page.
“The goals we set when we started working together have been completely fulfilled, and I want to thank him for the cooperation, teamwork, dedication and commitment.
“On the other hand, my professional plans are now directed primarily to maintain a good level of play, and also to make a good schedule and new goals for the next season. In this regard I will make all future decisions.”
If the last sentence suggests Djokovic – who didn’t name a replacement – wants more control of what lies ahead, no one could argue with the success he enjoyed with Becker, who worked alongside Marian Vajda. The Slovak was Djokovic’s main coach prior to Becker’s arrival and appears to be sticking around.
Read: India cash crisis delays Federer comeback
Becker, in the aftermath of Djokovic’s announcement, posted on Twitter: “Thank U ! We had the time of our life,” adding the hashtag of “teamdjokovic.”
Success then slump
Djokovic doubled his output in the last three years from six majors to 12, shifting from being simply one of tennis’ “Big Four” to its leading member. Skeptics of Becker were thus proven wrong.
The 29-year-old Djokovic authored one of the best seasons in tennis history last year, winning three majors and playing in all four grand slam finals.
The off-season did little to cool Djokovic: He bagged the Australian Open and French Open this year – the latter title completed his grand slam collection – to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four straight majors.
Read: Djokovic completes collection
But Djokovic, by his lofty standards, slumped thereafter. He admitted that “private issues” played a part – he hasn’t elaborated – and that his motivation waned following Roland Garros.
Wrist and arm injuries didn’t help, either.
Djokovic, after winning six titles in the first half of 2016, won one from July onwards.
He wept after losing in the first round of the Rio Olympics to Juan Martin del Potro – an Olympic gold is the lone piece of hardware missing from his overflowing trophy cabinet – and fell in the US Open final to Stan Wawrinka when the tennis gods gave him a smooth path to the final.
Becker wasn’t alongside Djokovic at October’s Shanghai Masters or at the Paris Masters several weeks later.
Instead, former Spanish pro Pepe Imaz joined Djokovic in the French capital, where the Serb lost his No. 1 ranking to Andy Murray.
Imaz has known Djokovic’s younger brother Marko for a while but his philosophy, for a tennis coach, is certainly atypical.
“The focus of our training is of course to help players develop their tennis abilities helping them reach their highest professional level but we give absolute priority to the person’s well-being, feelings and emotions,” declares a paragraph on the website of Imaz’s tennis school in Spain.
When Becker and Vajda rejoined Djokovic at London’s World Tour Finals, they sat on the opposite side of Imaz in the player box.
Djokovic managed to make the final, yet with the No. 1 ranking on the line, he struggled badly in a straight-sets defeat to Murray.
Have your say on our Facebook page
Becker, Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl – all multiple grand slam winners – traveled the circuit for a time coaching Djokovic, Roger Federer and Murray, respectively, but now only Lendl remains.
Visit cnn.com/tennis for more news and videos
Djokovic is the highest profile, but not the lone player, to cut ties with their coach in the off-season. Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and top-10 women’s pros Madison Keys and Johanna Konta also ended their partnerships with Carlos Moya, Thomas Hogstedt and Esteban Carril, respectively.