Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Michael Chang and Goran Ivanisevic all belong to a elite group who have raised singles Grand Slam championship trophies.
They also share another distinction: All of them are coaching one of this weekend's US Open men's semifinalists.
In the draw’s top half, No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays Japanese star and No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori. Djokovic has the 1989 US Open champion Becker in his corner, while Nishikori is getting tutored by 1989 French Open winner Chang. After having an unsuccessful 2013 season by his standards, Swiss superstar Roger Federer hired two-time US Open Champion Edberg as his coach. In the semifinals, Federer will face off against No. 14 Croat Marin Cilic, who is being coached by the firery 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic..
Here’s what our “Final Four” men have to say about their respective coaches, going from top to bottom in the draw.
Novak Djokovic on Boris Becker (US Open record: 37-10; best Open finish: 1989 champion)
Known for his gutsy play and fiesty demeanor, Becker, 46, must have had some sort of influence on Djokovic’s maturation and his 2014 Wimbledon title run.
“We spoke about how we see this partnership and relationship working,” said Djokovic. “At the end of last year, when Boris agreed to be part of the team, Marián (Vajda) stepped down as a head coach.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Becker’s only US Open singles title, in which he defeated Andy Murray’s former coach Ivan Lendl, 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6, in the final.
Marin Cilic on Goran Ivanisevic (US Open record: 21-13; best Open finish: 1996 semifinalist)
After the No. 14 seed’s win over No. 6 Tomas Berdych, Cilic could not stop raving about having Ivanisevic on his team.
“[To] play with my idol was amazing,” said Cilic about first practicing with Ivanisevic when Cilic was 14. “I think that was a very crucial part of my career.”
Ivanisivec, 42, won the 2001 Wimbledon championships, where he beat Australian Patrick Rafter, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3, 2–6, 9–7, in the final.
“Goran is everything but not boring,” said Cilic, whose coach won his lone Slam as a wild card. “I feel that [working with him is] very entertaining.”
In addition to his run to the semis in 1996, Ivanisevic holds the record for the longest tiebreak in Open history. At the 1993 tournament, it took 38 points for the former world No. 2 to beat Canadian Daniel Nestor, 20-18, in the third set.
Kei Nishikori on Michael Chang (US Open record: 43-17; best Open finish: 1996 runner-up)
A tireless competitor, it’s hard to not watch Nishikori play and think of Chang. The two met at an exhibition in Japan two years ago. When Kei started brainstorming who to add to his team, 42-year-old Chang immediately came to mind.
“It’s been working well,” said Nishikori, who won two five-setters over Milos Raonic and Stanislas Wawrinka to earn his spot. “I love it now.”
Aside from helping in practice, Nishikori said his 1989 Roland Garros champion coach has enhanced another important aspect of his game.
“He’s also helping [my] mental [game],” said Nishikori, the first Japanese player since 1918 to reach the US Open semis. “Very strong mental [Chang] has.”
So mentally strong that Chang endured the longest match in US Open history, losing to Stefan Edberg, 7-6, 5-7, 6-7, 7-5, 4-6, in the 1992 semifinals. From start to finish, the match took 5 hours, 26 minutes. But Chang bounced back to make himself a second-week regular, reaching the quarterfinals or better five times in six years betwen 1992 and 1997.
Roger Federer on Stefan Edberg (US Open record: 43-12; best Open finish: 1991-92 champion)
Growing up in Switzerland, the 17-time Grand Slam Champion had two favorite players to watch: Boris Becker (now rival Djokovic’s coach) and Stefan Edberg (his current coach).
“Boris a little bit first, and then little while later Stefan became my idol,” Federer said. “I liked the way [Edberg] played and the way he behaved on court. I think with idols, it's always intimidating.”
Although Edberg, 48, stepped away from tennis for more than a decade, his return has been seamless.
“He sees it as a really big opportunity to help me and get me to winning ways,” raved Federer about the two-time winner. “He really enjoys himself on the tour now.”