Defending Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic has squashed cheating allegations that have come his way after Boris Becker revealed that he communicates with his player to guide him during matches, saying it is more “encouragement and reassurance” he receives from his coach rather than actual tactics.
Coaching is illegal during grand slam and ATP matches and “communications of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach may be construed as coaching” according to the code of conduct for grand slams.
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However many coaches, including Toni Nadal and now Boris Becker, have admitted that they have their own ways of getting a message through to a player during a match.
“We have our ways about it to tell him it's good or tell him it's bad. Then it's up to him to change it,” Becker said in an interview with Radio Five Live.
Djokovic was asked to explain the nature of these communications with his German coach. The world No1 said: “I don't think that we're cheating. I don't think that's how you can call it. There are special ways of, I would say, communication.
“As he mentioned, the way you look at each other, the way you feel your box, and box feels what you're going through on the court. I think that's something that just gives you that reassurance, gives you that confidence.
“It's not necessary that he tells me where to serve or to which side of the opponent's court I have to play, because that doesn't happen. But it's more of encouragement, and more of a support and reassurance that's basically present in those moments.”
The Serb admitted that a certain level of communication is generally present between all players and their coaches but that there is a certain limit to how often it should occur.
“I think with all the cameras pointed out to him and to the box, I think you would already notice if he (Becker) would just kind of go kick serve, slice, to do the backhand or forehand,” said Djokovic with a smile.
“But again, we can't pretend like that's not happening in tennis. Of course, there are situations when it happens, and not just with the top players, with everybody. This is a very competitive sport. You're alone on the court. Of course, there are certain rules.
“But also there are times when the team of the player communicates with the player when he gets to go and take the towel in the corner, which is closer to the box, or different ways.
“I think it's all fine as long as it's not regular. I think it just depends. Also that's up to the chair umpire or supervisor to decide if somebody's breaking the rules or not. I think as long as it's something that you can tolerate, let's say, within the ways of communication, I think it's fine.”
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When Ana Ivanovic has a couple of days off from tennis, she locks up her racquets in a closet so she can completely switch off from the sport.
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Striking the right balance between her life both on and off the court has been a priority for the Serbian world No7 recently, and it seems she is on the road to finding the right formula that can lead her back to the pinnacle of tennis.
The former world No1 and 2008 Roland Garros champion showed up to the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party at The Roof Gardens in Kensington looking radiant in a stunning blue Stella McCartney gown, walking the purple carpet with boyfriend, German World Cup winner, Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The football star has been a constant presence in her camp this summer, sitting courtside throughout Ivanovic’s run to the French Open semi-finals earlier this month in Paris – the Serb’s first trip to that stage at a major in seven years.
The pair have been seen walking around the Wimbledon grounds in the build-up to the third slam of the season, which kicks off on Monday, and Ivanovic struggled to keep a straight face as Schweinsteiger tried to make her laugh, pulling faces at her through the window, while she spoke to me at the party.
“Paris was a great example for me in terms of what kind of set up I need for myself. I had a big team but I felt like everyone was working well together and I felt at ease,” Ivanovic says between giggles as she discusses her French Open campaign.
— WTA (@WTA) June 26, 2015
“I just felt ‘I’m going to come to court, I’m going to do my best’ and that’s it. My team is taking care of me, making sure everything around me runs smoothly and this is what I need. I didn’t have so much of that in the past so that’s something that I also try to set up for the future.”
The first time Ivanovic made the Roland Garros final was in 2007 as a 19-year old. A few weeks later, she reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon, where she fell to eventual champion Venus Williams.
“It was a great experience for me. It was one of my first years on tour and I had just come off a French Open final so I really didn’t expect going that far in Wimbledon. I saved some match points in the quarter-finals which was actually a really good feeling and then obviously made the semi-finals,” she says of her 2007 Wimbledon run.
“With (Nadia) Petrova (in the quarters), we had five rain delays during the match. We played the whole day, but it was great. I really hope I can get back to that position again.”
Grass is not everyone’s best friend and Ivanovic hasn’t made it past the fourth round at Wimbledon in eight years.
— Ana Ivanovic (@AnaIvanovic) June 26, 2015
The 27-year-old won her first and only title on turf in Birmingham last year but that title defence came to a halt in her opening match there two weeks ago against Michelle Larcher De Brito.
Does she read much into that early loss with respect to her Wimbledon chances?
“To be honest not so much because after the French Open, coming to grass, I spoke to my team and we saw some things that were lacking in Paris so we really wanted to work on it. We said ‘you know what, let’s put Birmingham aside for the moment and try to build up for Wimbledon’. So for me it was a practice week,” she explains.
“I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get more matches in, but I have definitely had a great week since then.”
Ivanovic likes that she can dominate with her serve on grass but there are still things that trouble her on the surface.
“I do struggle a lot with how everything happens so fast because I love to build points and enjoy a little bit of a game. I feel on grass it happens so quick and sometimes you don’t have time to react or adjust, that’s why you need to be strong mentally.”
Other issues Ivanovic deals with on the tennis circuit are not related to forehands and backhands. She feels people fail to understand the inner workings of life on the women’s tour and that it consequently leads to unfair scrutiny.
“I think we are judged too much. They expect us to be like the guys and we’re not in any way. Not in a physical or mental way. Girls are naturally more emotional, there are more ups and downs, and traveling takes different tolls on girls and guys. So I think we do get judged a lot more, but I think the depth of women’s tennis is great. We have so many tough competitors and so many great players.
“We are more emotional so we take everything a lot harder. Also, having to work with a male team most of the time and changing time zones. I think it has a different effect on the girls than on the guys.”
One person she admits admiration for is the world No1 and 20-time grand slam champion Serena Williams, a potential quarter-final opponent for Ivanovic at Wimbledon.
— British Tennis (@BritishTennis) June 17, 2015
The American is the top seed and could complete a ‘Serena Slam’ this fortnight should she capture a fourth consecutive major trophy.
It would be the second time Williams would achieve that feat having done so in 2002-2003,to claim the naming rights of such an accomplishment.
“She is physically and mentally very strong and obviously that’s what drives her. She’s a great competitor and we’re so lucky to have her in women’s tennis. To think of winning four grand slams in a row at this moment in women’s tennis is hard to imagine,” says Ivanovic.
Ivanovic will do her best to try and stop Williams from making history this fortnight, but first she must overcome Chinese qualifier Xu Yi-Fan, who is her opening round opponent on Monday.
(Ana Ivanovic is the Global Ambassador for Dubai Duty Free, who were the presenting partners of the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party that was held on June 25 at The Roof Gardens, Kensington in London.)