Novak Djokovic may have extended his undefeated run in Abu Dhabi and added one more victory to the winning streak he started last September, but the main buzz around the tennis stadium at Zayed Sports City was Boris Becker and the Serb sharing a practice court for the first time in public.
Much has been said since Djokovic made the surprise appointment of the German legend and yesterday, hundreds of fans got to witness the partnership come to life as Becker spent over an hour coaching the world No2 before his semi-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
And the pairing enjoyed a successful debut as Djokovic took out Tsonga 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 in 76 minutes to reach his third consecutive final in the UAE capital.
“It’s great to have him around,” Djokovic said of Becker, a six-time Grand Slam champion. “We are midway through our preparations. This is the third or fourth time that we’re together on the court.
“It was the first time for him watching me play a match as my coach, courtside. It was a new experience for both of us and it went well. We talked before the match about what the future will bring for us, how we are going to prepare not just tomorrow’s match but for the whole season.”
Some have questioned Djokovic’s decision to bring in Becker but the Serb says he’s already learnt a lot from the German in the short period they have worked together.
“I’m learning every day from him,” he explained. “We talk about things. His greatness is obvious in the tennis world. “He’s been a member of the Laureus Academy, so he’s been doing a lot of charity activities around the world so it says enough about his personality, he’s trying to keep his link to the sport.
“He’s been working on TV and of course listening to him analyse tennis is fantastic so I’m excited to hear more on the court from him to see how he can help me out.
“So far it’s been working great. Unfortunately he’s not able to run, he’s not able to play, I was hoping I could play with him a little bit but he has a problem with his ankle and with his knees, so if anybody can help him, please I would love to play with Boris,” the 26-year-old added with a laugh.
Both Djokovic and Tsonga had a great serving day, with the duo blasting 200+km/hour missiles for a total of 17 aces. Djokovic drew first blood in the first set breaking for a 4-2 lead but Tsonga broke back forcing a tiebreak, which the Serb took on his second set point on a poor backhand volley from his opponent.
The players have described the surface at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship this year as faster than usual and Tsonga certainly tried to take advantage of that, serving big and coming into the net but it was Djokovic’s consistency that wore down the Frenchman.
And when the defending champion opened up a 5-2 lead in the second set, it was over for Tsonga. The Serb will target a third straight title in the final today.
Despite the loss, Tsonga is happy that he got to play three top-four players in a row in one weekend.
“It’s perfect,” said Tsonga, who beat Andy Murray on day one and will face Rafael Nadal in the thirdplace playoff today. “It’s good to play those players and to play them I have to play many matches before so now I can play them straight away because this way I can evaluate my tennis and know if I’m far or not.”