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Boris Becker (left) with Novak Djokovic. Photo: David Gray/Reuters
Boris Becker (left) with Novak Djokovic. Photo: David Gray/Reuters

Wimbledon: Battle of the super-coaches

Some of the greatest stars of the past will be courtside as coaches

Iconic tennis rivalries from the 1980s will be replayed this year at Wimbledon.

Just this past week, on 14 June, Andy Murray reunited with former world No.1 Ivan Lendl, who had coached him earlier for two years. On 19 June, Murray beat Canadian and Wimbledon No.7 seed Milos Raonic in straight sets, claiming his record fifth title at the Queen’s Club Championships. Raonic is coached by John McEnroe.

Through the 1980s, the year-end No.1 spot in the rankings was split between Lendl and McEnroe (with the exception of Björn Borg in 1980 and Mats Wilander in 1988).

Murray, who sparked off this super-coach trend by hiring Lendl back in 2011, is going in strong to Wimbledon. Top-seed Novak Djokovic, whose current dominance on court has been going mostly unquestioned, will charge into the Slam with Boris Becker, the three-time Wimbledon champion (1985, 1986, 1989) whom he brought on board in December 2013. The same year, Roger Federer, the current world No.3, had sought out Stefan Edberg’s mentorship, rounding off what some commentators call the triumvirate of the 1980s—Becker-Edberg-Lendl (this season, Federer has opted instead for former fellow player on tour Ivan Ljubicic).

Edberg is credited with bringing Federer back from a particularly dismal 2013 season, sharpening and optimizing the Swiss’ offence and making him come to the net more in an era of powerful baseline tennis.

Becker has worked Djokovic into his current dominance—the Serb has won six of his 12 Grand Slam titles under the German’s tutelage.

Meanwhile, No.4 seed Stanislas Wawrinka has 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek on board for this year’s grass-court season. No.5 seed Kei Nishikori is coming to SW19 with 1989 French Open winner Michael Chang, his coach since 2014. Chang was the youngest player to ever win a Grand Slam. He beat Edberg in the 1989 French Open final, just after Edberg’s five-set semi-final clash against Becker.

“Let’s face it, we do understand the game probably more than most, so everyone benefits," Becker said in a BBC interview recently, welcoming the return of former ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) stars as coaches on tour. “It’s good for the quality of the tennis," he said.

You are free to imagine the delicious possibilities: like a replay of the dramatic 1984 French Open final when McEnroe, who was winning comfortably against Lendl, had a typical meltdown that cost him the title.

Here’s to McEnroe, Chang, Lendl and Becker, and the battle of the super-coaches.

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