Boris Becker says he sees a lot of Novak Djokovic in himself
Says he "burns like a volcano" while watching Djokovic play
Only decided to take role after long talks with Serbian star
He says fatherhood will help Djokovic blossom
At a time where former tennis greats are returning to the tour, there is one man whose presence looms large.
It was always going to take something special to lure Boris Becker away from the home comforts of his family and the sanctuary of the television studio.
But with one phone call and a glimpse at a man who made him think twice, the opportunity to work with Novak Djokovic was a challenge he could not resist.
“I see in Novak a little bit of Boris Becker,” the German tells CNN’s Open Court.
“I see him against Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, probably the two most popular players in the world, and he doesn’t always get a fair deal from the crowd.
“It makes him work even harder and more determined to win. I see some similarities between him and a young Becker.”
Becker began his partnership with Djokovic in December 2013 and was courtside when the Serb star claimed his seventh grand slam title at Wimbledon in July – one more than his coach managed during a 15-year career.
Becker, whose first of three triumphs at the All England club came as a raw teenager, was heavily criticized when he moved away from the microphone to become an integral part of Djokovic’s coaching set up.
His former rival Stefan Edberg joined forces with Federer around the same time, while Ivan Lendl – another star of their era – enjoyed a successful spell working alongside Andy Murray before they split in March.
But it was Becker’s arrival that caught the headlines.
The 46-year-old says he could not turn down the offer – especially given the similarities he saw between Djokovic, now 27, and his younger self.
“I live with Novak. Whenever he makes a mistake I feel that I make it too,” Becker says. “Whenever he hits an ace, I feel like I’ve hit an ace.
“I have to keep my poker face and have a very cool demeanor. He’s looking at us up in the box and we have to give him confidence.
“Inside it’s a volcano, I’m burning. After matches he needs to take a quiet minute to relax – I need to take one too!”
Becker burst onto the scene by winning Wimbledon at the tender age of 17 and repeating the feat the following year, becoming known as “Boom Boom” for his ferocious serve-and-volley game.
A U.S. Open triumph in 1989 and two Australian Open crowns capped a fine career in which he won 64 ATP titles, earning $25 million in prize money.
But since his retirement in 1999, Becker’s main contribution to tennis has been through his television work.
It is something he enjoys immensely, his enthusiasm laid bare for all to see every time he picks up a microphone.
While Becker received a couple of phone calls from players curious as to whether he would be willing to take up a coaching role, it was only once Djokovic got in touch that he began to consider moving back onto the circuit.
But even then, Becker needed reassuring – he had to know what was driving Djokovic.
“I have a pretty successful second career which is nothing to do with tennis or sport so I was already on the road for so many years, so I thought, why bother?” he says.
“But Novak called me and I told him I felt honored. I told him I appreciated that he remembered me and that I could bring something he didn’t have yet.
“I considered going back on the road but I wanted to talk to him first to see how driven he was.
“I didn’t want to spend weeks with him away from my wife and kids if he wasn’t driven.
“I go on the road because I want to win the majors and not being happy with the quarters or the semis. He had the same mindset and that’s why I felt it was the right decision.”
Becker’s presence at the 2014 Australian Open sparked much interest.
Djokovic, having won the title on each of his three previous visits to Melbourne Park, was dethroned by eventual winner Stan Wawrinka 9-7 in the fifth set of their quarterfinal.
That result sparked skepticism over Becker’s appointment, though he dismissed that as “part of being Boris Becker.”
Instead, Becker believes the defeat to Wawrinka allowed them time to assess which way they needed to go, and allowed him to begin to influence the Serbian’s game – especially the mental side.
Defeats in the finals at Wimbledon and the U.S Open in 2013 and the 2014 French Open had left question marks over Djokovic’s morale, but Becker believes any doubts have since been erased.
“I was known to be a pretty hard-nosed guy on court wit