I don’t think that we’re cheating. I don’t think that’s how you can call it. I mean, there are special ways of, I would say, communication
you look at each other, the way you feel your box, and 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.
“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. But it’s more, you know, encouragement, and more of a support and reassurance, as I said, that’s basically present in those moments.”
Asked if the communication went as far as signals, or Becker giving him specific advice about how to serve, Djokovic insisted that would have been picked up long ago. But, while trying to absolve himself of blame, he admitted that tennis has a problem with players and coaches who at best try to bend the rules about on-court coaching.
“Well, I think with all the cameras pointed out to him and to the box, I think you would already notice if he would just kind of go kick serve, slice, to do the backhand or forehand,” he said. “But again, we can’t pretend like 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’s certain rules.
“But also there are times when, you know, 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, you know, different ways. I think it’s all fine as long as it’s not regular.
“I think it just depends. Also that’s up to the chair umpire or supervisor to decide if somebody’s breaking the rules or not. I think as long as it’s something that you can tolerate, let’s say, within the ways of communication, I think it’s fine.”
Had eighth seed David Ferrer withdrawn from the tournament before today’s order of play was issued rather than shortly after, Kohlschreiber, the world No 33, would have been moved to another tie. Instead, both the German and Djokovic will have to make do with a match-up that is far tougher than either would have wanted to be faced with at this early stage of the competition, where a comfortable meeting with a lowly-ranked opponent is always to be preferred.
Should he get the better of Kohlschreiber, Djokovic will then play the winner of the match on No 2 Court between two men who are competing here for the last time – Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion, and Jarkko Nieminen. Either man would be almost as dangerous as the German.
Hewitt can be guaranteed to expend every available ounce of effort in a bid to pull off an unexpected win if he does make it through today, and has won all five of his meetings with the Finn.
SIDE BY SIDE: Novak Djokovic, left, and Rafael Nadal chat after a training session yesterday