Andre Agassi is happy to see Novak Djokovic thriving in his absence and would not be surprised if the world number one surpassed Roger Federer’s grand slam record.
There was great excitement within tennis when Djokovic announced in May 2017 that he would be working with Agassi but the partnership ended less than a year later amid reports of acrimony.
Both parties denied that, with Agassi citing a difference in opinion around how Djokovic handled his long-standing elbow problem for the parting of ways.
Since reuniting with mentor Marian Vajda last spring, Djokovic has surged back to the top of the rankings, winning grand slam titles at Wimbledon and the US Open to take his tally to 14, six short of Federer.
Speaking at the Lavazza Cafe at Melbourne Park, Agassi said: “It’s hard to get inside somebody’s head. My hope was that I added but it takes two. There’s probably a lot of things along the way that I was force feeding.
“I don’t know if that takes a while to process or I don’t know if I created more angst in his life but, at the end of the day, tennis is getting the results of what it deserves, which is him being at the highest level.
“I’m thrilled to see him doing it. I root for him, too. I was convinced when we started he would win two (slams) a year for the next three or four years, and he’s certainly on pace for that.”
Agassi is back in the coaching game with Grigor Dimitrov, but knows his former charge is the biggest obstacle to the Bulgarian breaking into the grand slam winners’ club.
“My hope is that Grigor has something to say,” said Agassi. “All we can do is point at history and history says that Novak is at his best and ready to do it again. He certainly loves playing down here and it certainly fits him pretty well so of course he’d be the favourite coming in.”
Dimitrov has had a career of which many players would be envious but there remains a frustration that he has not yet fulfilled his considerable talent.
He has failed to back up any of his peak moments – a Wimbledon semi-final in 2014, a battling loss to Rafael Nadal here in the last four in 2017 and his ATP Finals title the same season – and arrived in Melbourne ranked 21.
Dimitrov, who takes on Thomas Fabbiano in round three on Friday, will hope Agassi can prove to be the missing piece of the jigsaw.
Agassi said: “It’s going great. I couldn’t be more thrilled with who he is as a person and how close we’ve become so quickly.
“In my estimation, there’s three clear parts of tennis. There’s when you’re in control, there’s neutral and then there’s defence.
“When he used to be in control, he did it with risk, when he was in neutral he was quickly falling behind, and when he was in behind he didn’t have a lot of transition, he just had a lot of horsepower.
“If you can do the dance between those three parts and play to your strengths, it’s a big difference. You have to work too hard if you don’t do it smartly. If you work too hard, it’s hard to do it match after match. My hope is he can do it a lot easier for a lot longer.”
Agassi, meanwhile, has been saddened by the struggles of Andy Murray, who idolised the American as a child.
“Nobody deserves to be out there in pain,” said the 48-year-old, an eight-time grand slam champion. “You don’t want to see that with anybody, especially someone as great as he’s been and what he’s done for the game.
“It’s been hard to watch him in pain and, if he’s sure that that’s his new rules of engagement every time he steps on to the court, then I can understand his feelings and his decision.”