Boris Becker has claimed his fellow deportee Novak Djokovic is driven from “the depths of his soul” to become the male GOAT. The Serbian returns to the Australian Open bidding to win his 22nd Grand Slam title and equal the male record held by Rafa Nadal.
And his former coach Becker, speaking for the first time since his release from jail, told Eurosport: “In the depths of his soul, Novak wants to become the most successful tennis player of all time. At the moment, that’s Nadal, you have to say that clearly.
“This record of Nadal’s is the highest priority for Djokovic. Anything else would not be credible.”
Nine-time winner Djokovic returns to the Australian Open title following his deportation last year after he entered the country on a medical exemption.
Becker is also seeking public redemption after he was deported from the UK last month after serving eight months of a two-and-a-half-year sentence for fraud. He will return to the airways for Eurosport for the first Grand Slam of the year from a German studio.
Becker, who won the Australian Open twice, said Djokovic was “the top favourite” ahead of Nadal “but not as clear as in the past”.
The German, 55, added: “The Rod Laver Arena is his living room, he feels most comfortable there and has won the title nine times.
“He recently won the preparatory tournament in Adelaide by beating Sebastian Korda in the final, and before that, defeated strong opponents Daniil Medvedev and Denis Shapovalov in the semi-finals and quarter-finals, respectively.
“Novak had a very unhappy time in Australia last year and was eventually expelled. I’m glad that this episode is no longer the main topic and that it’s all about sport again.
“But it won’t be an easy tournament. The expectations are high, and Novak wants to equal Nadal’s Grand Slam record. In addition, he seems to have something wrong with his thigh and is probably not at 100 per cent.”
And Becker refused to rule out Nadal retaining the Australian Open title.
“As long as this guy is around, I would never bet against him,” he said. “Let’s remember last year: he actually had no chance, arrived in Australia and played a Challenger competition to prepare. Nobody took that seriously, many even smiled. Two weeks later, Nadal won the Australian Open.
“He is an incredible competitor, and if he didn’t have a chance, he wouldn’t play. On top of that, he can see Djokovic rushing in with one eye. Maybe Rafa thought he had him beat in Grand Slams, but then Novak won at Wimbledon. Fabulous, that duel!
“I am a big Nadal fan. He is an absolute role model for young players and exemplifies what can be achieved with attitude, discipline and pure will. In my ranking of the favourites for Melbourne, he comes in second.”