LONDON (Reuters) - Novak Djokovic’s decision to work with American great Andre Agassi at the French Open could be an inspired move as he seeks to recover his lost spark, according to John McEnroe.
The Serb’s insatiable appetite for grand slam titles appears to have waned since he won last year’s French Open to take his career haul to 12 with motivational issues and niggling injuries contributing to a surprising slump in form.
He split with his entire coaching team earlier this month but announced after losing to Alexander Zverev in the Italian Open final on Sunday that eight-times major champion Agassi would be advising him during the Roland Garros fortnight.
It is 47-year-old Agassi’s first taste of coaching at the top level and he follows the likes of Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Michael Chang and McEnroe himself into the players’ box.
“I was surprised, I had not heard any indication that Andre was looking to coach,” seven-times grand slam champion McEnroe, who worked with Canadian Milos Raonic at Wimbledon last year as he reached the final, told Reuters.
“As far as being a brilliant tennis mind, and I know him well enough to know that he is, he loves the game and will leave no stone unturned as far as preparing for matches goes.”
Agassi bloomed again after a mid-career slump that took him from world number one to outside the top 100 in 1997 and he returned to win the 1999 French Open and U.S. Open.
Taking his game to another level he went on to claim two Australian Opens after his 30th birthday, the last coming in 2003 when he was aged 32 and eight months.
With Djokovic having just turned 30 himself, McEnroe can see parallels in their careers.
“Andre had a renaissance later in his career, into his 30s where he had success late in his career,” McEnroe, who will be imparting his wisdom for Eurosport during the French Open, said.
”With Novak sort of hitting that peak by winning the French last year he has talked about some issues off court, some motivational issues, so perhaps Andre can give him an insight into an avenue, a way where to be more easily fired up.
“If his mind is into it he is going to win more majors.”
Djokovic and Agassi are deep thinkers about the sport and McEnroe said that their partnership, however long it lasts, can be a meeting of minds.
“First of all, Andre can bring a great respect. He’s one of the greatest players ever. To be around someone like that will be fun for Novak,” McEnroe said.
”Andre analysed the game really well from the times I spoke to him. He had that resurgence when he reached his 30s and added a couple of grand slam titles.
“It sounds interesting to me.”
After completing his career grand slam by winning the French last year, Djokovic bowed out early at Wimbledon and lost in the U.S. Open final to Stan Wawrinka.
He lost his world number one ranking to Britain’s Andy Murray at the end of last year and then suffered a shock second round loss to qualifier Denis Istomin at the Australian Open.
Since then his form has been patchy although he has looked more like his old self in recent weeks.
”I‘m surprised Novak has fallen off as much as he has,“ McEnroe said. ”But it doesn’t surprise me that he might have lost a little motivation having accomplished what no one had done since Rod Laver last year.
“But if he won the French it would not shock me at all.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris