2018 is going to be a big year for Coach Agassi. A little like being thrown in at the deep end, he has some big shoes to fill in his first coaching role, and Novak Djokovic is going to want to hit the ground running after his lukewarm 2017. The Australian Open has been Djokovic’s most successful Grand Slam in the past, by some way, and at the start of the season, he will be hoping to make an impression, to stamp his mark on the early proceedings of the new season.
Since the appointment of Agassi, filling the gap left by Becker’s departure and the ensuing split with the remainder of his team (including Marian Vajda who had been his coach for over a decade and overseen his ascendency to world number one) on an initially temporary basis, everything in camp Djokovic has seemed a little uncertain. Only a couple of small titles over the course of the year, and having to cut it short after the summer due to injury has meant that a much-needed break was enforced. His body was clearly worn by his years at the top and the exertions therein. Having seen what Federer and Nadal have achieved post-injury, Djokovic and Murray will be chomping at the bit to get back on the court and back up the rankings.
This inevitably puts pressure on Andre Agassi. Having never had a coaching post before, and with his predecessors having overseen a total of 12 Grand Slam victories and 30 Masters’ titles (to name the Serb’s greatest achievements to date), it’s both a high-profile post and one accompanied by great expectations. Agassi seemed to take it in his stride in the early months of the union, but he must surely know that the spotlight and pressure will fall on him should his player not quickly resume his position amongst the elite of the sport. It’s a tentative role, to say the least. Agassi’s coaching credentials have been neither previously witnessed nor proven and here he now occupies one of the most demanding and intense roles in the whole of tennis. He looked nervous at times watching on, as Djokovic failed as he had for the past year to re-capture his astounding form of the previous five years, during the summer. Agassi is clearly invested, hoping to carve a successful path as a coach in addition to his magnificent playing career, and the months ahead could prove a fascinating period for both player and coach.
What is clear is that after the initial months before Djokovic’s injury, in which Agassi was in his corner, they have clearly cemented their relationship and decided that for now it works for each of them. Nobody can predict if Djokovic will return to his previous heights (he also turns 31 next spring), but his partnership with Agassi proves the type of move that signals ambition and heralds a new and exciting era for both parties. What happens next is anybody’s guess, and Coach Agassi might just have the magic to bring Djokovic’s tennis back to life.