Big Boris Becker Interview...
"They only go for winners"
Before the start of the Australian open: Boris Becker about ways out of the crisis of the German tennis and the model Jürgen Klinsmann.
20 years ago, Boris Becker won for the first time Wimbledon. "Only with the age coming, you're really conscious", he says, "what there really has happened."
By Stefan Frommann and Alexandra Gross
There could have been a hardly more beautiful start. The German tennis was after 10 years again in the Hopman Cup final, the Mixed Championships for tennis professionals in Perth. That's no Australian open, even less Wimbledon, but a positive note after a year, which was more a headache than joy for the German tennis.
But Tommy Haas had to retire after winning the 1st set 7:5 against the French-Open finalist Coria and fears for his participation for the Australian open, which will beginn on 17 January in Melbourne.
Where does the German tennis stand in 2005? Which hopes can Haas, Kiefer & CO awake? The Berliner Morgenpost spoke with Boris Becker (37), the former number one.
Welcome in 2005, Mr. Becker. How do you feel, 20 years for your first Wimbledon victory?
Boris Becker: More experienced, wiser. My God, that's already twenty years ago? Some moments and game situations from that time are still very present to me. About some others I forgot completely. But that's probably better this way.
Also does the admiration for your sports successes grow with the age?
If you are in the middle of it, you don't realize some things at all. Only at the age, once becomes conscious, what actually really passed there. I am after 20 years still the youngest Wimbledon champion and I hold further records.
When did you tell your children the last time about Wimbleon?
In principle, I do not tell them nothing at all about it, only if they ask me. And they do that only, if they are in London and run around on the area. I didn't tell a Wimbledon story at Christmas.
The only thing, which was constant from German view on the tennis year 2004, was the inconsistency. The most pleasing was probably the comeback of Tommy Haas, wasn't it?
After two difficult shoulder operations and an 18 month break, it was unsure if he could pick up playing professional tennis at all again. When he returned with the tournament win in Houston, that was impressive. He knocked again at the door for the world's elite. Many did not expect that in such a way. What a pity that he had to retire with injury at the Hopman Cup.
Haas seems to have become more mature.
The difficult times also let him develop as a person. As a half Florida native, he also had to see that heavy crisis exist and that there is not only sunshine. Besides that, he experienced who are his real friends and upon whom he can rely on at difficult times.
Nicolas Kiefer found the way back again to old strength. However, he was stopped due to his right wrist injury during the US Open
That was very unfortunate. Kiefer was on an unbelievably good way back. If he remained healthy, he would have finished the season as the best German player. After some grey years, he recognized his chance and made use of it.
What seperates Kiefer from the others?
He has a terribly quick hand, and its strongest impact is the return. That can be done only if you have a eye hand coordination, which is particularly fast. So he can decide in last second, where he returns. Kiefer's most important body instrument is the wrist. Therefore, even more heavily weighed his wrist injury.
Rainer Schüttler was in 2003 in the Masters semi-final, now he is ranked #42 in the world.
Figurativy expressed one can say that Rainer ran out of gas. The strongest weapon was always his body. Rainer was the fittest player on the Tour. But recently, the body was his weakness. But I think, that his problem was mental and pyschological. He was mentally simply flat. He had to endure a lot of first round losses which left its impact on his self-confidence. I hope that Schüttler becomes again a feared opponent.
We should still speak about the youngest one, about Florian Mayer. Does he have things to create the break-through in 2005?
He came out of nowhere, but the pressure for Mayer increased, the opponents got accustomed to his play and have a plan ready against him. That is new for him. However, he is our hope and a very bright spot. I am sure that he will improve and that he will be ranked higher.
That would be good for the German tennis. 2004 was not a success when failing to get to the World Group.
If Haas, Kiefer, Schüttler, Mayer and maybe Alexander Waske for the double are healthy, I have no doubt that we will get back to the World Group this year. Presumed the best team is playing. Once when Germany returned to the World Group, this team has the chance to go far in the 2006 Davis Cup. How far this will be, that is difficult to predict. The only thing that is sure is that we have world class players.
Is Patrik Kühnen an ideal captain for such goals?
He accomplished something what neither Becker nor Stich or Steeb have created. He formed again a unit between the young players. Therefore, not only the DTB, but above all, the players decided that Patrik in any case should continue his job.
Does a sports like tennis have a future in Germany?
I am convinced that we crossed the bottom of the valley. But the mountain is high. Graf, Stich and Becker were quite good at their times. And the young players were rated for a long time on our successes and our tennis boom. That was not completely fair and it is one of the reasons, why we came at all into this low. But now the real tennis fans and sponsors are again there. For example, the booking of tickets for the Hamburger Rothenbaum Masters is going much better than the previous two years.
But each successful kind of sport needs their star.
Naturally, everybody is waiting for one to come, for someone who reaches the semifinal in Wimbledon or who takes the Davis Cup team back to the World Group, and immediately everbody would talk again all about tennis. Many partners, sponsors and investors are waiting for that to happen, they want to jump again on tennis.
Saying that, you already almost soundlike the future president of the German Tennis Federation.
However, furtunately, I'm not. I am the biggest tennis fan of Germany, but not more.
In tennis, you are what Franz Beckenbauer is for soccer. Wouldn't it be a logical consequence that you become DTB president some day?
Honestly - that does not stand to discussion for me. That isn't even worth a consideration. It is simply not my desire, but I am now perhaps still 20 years too young. I am good friends with the current president, Mr. Georg von Waldenfels. There is a good exchange of ideas. That could be still intensified and tied together more closely. As a Chairman for Masters at the Rothenbaum, I am more than occupied. There I can do all things that I want.
Can there be a tennis boom in Germany again?
That's well possible. The people now want the new ones, the field is there. It is about the players to notice and to take this chance.
How should Haas, Kiefer or Mayer to drag masses along, how you had done it at that time?
The conditions for that are not blue eyes and not black curls - those are victories. Only if you win, you arouse emotions, passion, highlights - and also pain after defeats.
Would one of the German Top players mentioned have the necessary charisma to keep again fans awake at night in front of the television?
I cannot judge that. But each player has its personality and naturally also errors and weaknesses. Clear is, that the fan changes the sides quickly. At the moment he switches on the television, he wants to be entertained. And best would be by a victory - tiebreaks and five sets included. The basis however always is that the player wins. When Schüttler reached the final in Melbourne, suddenly the newspaper pages were full about it. Everybody asked, who is Schüttler, from where does he come from? This can go very fast. If all factors accumulate, then you get a Roger Federer. But this happens once in a hundred years. Another example comes to my mind with Jürgen Klinsmann in soccer.
He was extremely criticized in summer. There he said exactly what he wants to do. Now he won a few times, and everything is good. You go to a winner afterwards. Why is Franz Beckenbauer so popular? That got the World Championship not only as a player, then as a coach, but now as a National Committee President.
What's your biggest wish for the tennis year 2005?
That the German Davis Cup team returns to the World Group, that we have again a top 10 player and second one who is close to that. And, of course, that at the Rothenbaum one of our guys reaches the semi-final.
Who is the most capable to do that?
The first name which comes to my mind is Tommy Haas. Nicolas Kiefer is also not far away.
On which would you rather bet: That Germany becomes FIFA World Champion in 2006 or that a German tennis player wins Wimbledon?
(after long considering): That Germany become FIFA World Champion.
Because the goal is clearly formulated in soccer. Jürgen Klinsmann and also Michael Ballack clearly said: We want to become World Champions. From Haas, Kiefer or Schüttler I did not hear such statements ever. As a sportsman you need a clear goal and the correct attitude, in order to also reach the goals. Without a goal the pressure situation is not so large. I miss with the German tennis professionals the statement: I would like to be the best player of the world. Point, end, out.