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Djokovic Responds to Allegations that He Receives Illegal Coaching from Boris Becker

Controversy seems to follow Boris Becker around these days. But Novak Djokovic is having none of it as he prepares to make his bid for a Wimbledon title defense.

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Becker’s comments to BBC Radio about his on-court relationship with his charge during matches raised a few eyebrows in the media, leading many to believe that Djokovic typically receives illegal coaching from Becker, but they may not be as damning many are interpreting. “There are moments when he looks up and he needs assurance that what he is doing is right,” Becker said during a chat with BBC Radio 5 Live. “And then we have our ways about it to tell him it’s good or tell him it’s bad. And then it’s up to him to change it.”

Rafael Nadal’s coach, Toni Nadal, has made similar statements in the media. In 2013 he said “I talk to Rafa during matches. I know that it’s not allowed but I think that at my age I have nothing to hide.”

Djokovic was asked about Becker’s statements during his press duties at Wimbledon on Sunday, and responded with the following: “I don’t think that we’re cheating,” he said. “I don’t think that’s how you can call it. There are special ways of, I would say, communicating. As [Becker] mentioned, the way you look at each other, the way you feel your box, and your 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.”

Djokovic, a two-time Wimbledon and eight-time Grand Slam champion, will play his first match on Monday on Centre Court against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. He says that Becker doesn’t give him detail-oriented advice while he’s on court—just the typical psychological boost that coaches are permitted to offer during matches.

“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,” Djokovic said. “But it’s more of an encouragement, and more of a support and reassurance.” He added: “We can’t pretend that’s not happening in tennis. Of course, there’s 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 there are also 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 other ways. I think it’s all fine as long as it’s not regular.”