Boris Becker is tennis and tennis is Boris Becker. Before the start of the US Open in New York, the icon of the yellow ball speaks about the long Corona break, Zverev’s form crisis and sports heroes in Germany.
Hardly any other man in Germany is as associated with tennis as Boris Becker. In 1985, at the age of 17, he triumphed at Wimbledon and won the tournament three times. Becker and Steffi Graf, who even won seven times in London, formed an era of tennis – and caused a boom in Germany.
But those times are long gone. The days of the national tennis heroes of the Graf / Becker category are over. This is how Becker sees it himself, who will be in front of the camera again for Eurosport from next week and will analyze the athletes’ matches.
Photo series with 21 photos
T-online.de arranged an interview with him in advance. For a talk about envy and resentment, national heroes and the love of tennis:
The US Open is imminent, given the corona pandemic under special circumstances. Mr. Becker, what is the value of the second Grand Slam of the year?
The value is very high, because tennis is greater than any individual player. The main message is that people are playing again.
With Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu, however, the two defending champions have canceled.
Who plays does not come first. For the women the field is generally a bit disappointing, for the men all good guys play. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to the 2020 winner whether he won in front of spectators or without. In five years time, there will not be a rooster either. Conquering best-of-five matches and winning the tournament remains an excellent achievement.
In football, for example recently in the Champions League, there were changes to the tournament mode due to the corona pandemic.
Exactly, but that does not affect the performance of the athletes. In the end, the best team won. It doesn’t matter whether it is in one or two games, for or without fans. The tennis player feels the same. You have to be better than the other. The viewer has not yet won a contest.
Alex Zverev recently made his comeback, for Angelique Kerber it is the baptism of fire in the comeback with her new old trainer Torben Beltz. What do you trust the best German players at the US Open?
First of all, I am very happy that both are playing. Alexander Zverev looked fit last week despite losing to Andy Murray, even though he had his problems. Any beginning is difficult, but this applies not only to Zverev, but to everyone.
At Angie Kerber I am very happy that she is working with Torben again. The two had the greatest successes together, why should that not be possible in the future? I hope our best two make week two.
Boris Becker (l.) Honors Angelique Kerber: The former number one in the world was named Sportswoman of the Year in Baden Baden in 2018. (Source: Pressefoto Baumann / image images)
After a break of more than six months, the tennis world is slowly getting back on track. Professionals like Zverev or your former protégé Novak Djokovic have not done it the best grade, for example on the Adria Tour. Why did you get Zverev after his missteps? defended?
First of all, I thought it was great that Novak organized a series of tournaments in Serbia for his teammates, especially as the income was for a good cause. Serbia is much worse off than we are, as far as the country’s favorite son organizes such a thing, it’s honorable. In addition, different corona rules apply than with us. What came next, the topless party, they shouldn’t have done that of course. At a time when the whole world feels trapped. Novak and other actors have you are infected with the virus and thus paid the greatest fine for it. The origin of this series can be judged positively.
I enjoyed watching the tournament and was happy to see tennis again, even though the ending was very unfortunate. And to get back to your original question, you can assume that I will defend German players if they are attacked by foreign players.
“I made a big mistake,” Zverev said last week after two months of silence following his departure from the Cincinnati Masters. in New York City. Was he strongly advised not to comment for so long?
I don’t know, I haven’t seen him in a long time. Now, shortly before the US Open, he faces the world press. At one point he had to answer questions. It is good that he realizes that he was not behaving optimally. But: playing on the tour was no mistake. Showing yourself in front of cameras at a players’ party was definitely a mistake and therefore the criticism was justified. But Sascha is 23 years old and will make a few more mistakes.
After his recent defeat, Zverev said of his relationship with the fans: “In 2018, when I won, the relationship was sensational. When I lose, unfortunately the relationship isn’t that great. Unfortunately that’s the case in Germany, also in Germany. Football.”
Sascha (Alexander Zverev, editor’s note) has a large fan base not only in Germany, but around the world, having been among the best in the world for three years and has won major tournaments. I don’t want to get too close to the fan as it is completely normal for them to be disappointed when their idol is beaten.
Zadar, Croatia on June 16, 2020: Novak Djokovic and Alexander “Sascha” Zverev (left) on “Kids-Day” as part of the Adriatic Tour launched by Djokovic. Novak Djokovic became infected with the corona virus as part of the tour. (Source: Pixsell / Image Images)
He has been on a break for a year, with the exception of the semi-finals of the Australian Open. He likes that the least. He notices the criticism of him and his performance and he does not like it. But Sascha can change it herself.
Do we in Germany have a stronger tendency to criticize local stars?
I don’t think that’s a German phenomenon, it exists in other countries too. If you now raise jealousy and resentment, that is certainly more common in Germany than in Italy, the US or any other country.
When you think of great German athletes, you think of names from the past: Michael Schumacher, Steffi Graf, Dirk Nowitzki or you. Why is that?
It is difficult to say. You mentioned a few, I would also like to add Franz Beckenbauer who stands for successful football around the world. There are a number of German footballers who are extremely important abroad, such as Lothar Matthäus, Jürgen Klinsmann or Rudi Völler. They are viewed very critically in Germany, so that people often forget how popular they actually are elsewhere.
In Germany we see our heroes as very single track. You will be judged based on the last heading. In other countries it doesn’t matter, there the focus is more on lifetime achievement. If it was positive, it will be remembered.
After the Graf / Becker era in Germany, tennis fell under the radar.
Fortunately, tennis is a global sport that is strongly emerging internationally. This is partly due to Roger Federer, Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal. These are world stars. Internationally, the opportunities are greater than they have been in a long time.
This is not the case in Germany.
Exactly, that is why we have to see and tackle this as a German phenomenon. You have to be honest: in tennis we miss national heroes. We would have more fans again if Struff or Zverev won the US Open. Just look at football. The sport is so successful in Germany because Bayern wins. People like to identify with winners. The way they performed on the international stage in the Champions League was sensational. That way you automatically become a football fan.
Boris Becker: The outspoken Bayern and Chelsea fan attended the first knockout round of both teams in London at the end of February. (Source: Eibner / Image Images)
You have always distinguished yourself on the field with an absolute will to win and you have also sacrificed your health. Is there a German athlete in whom you recognize yourself or parts of yourself?
I don’t want to talk about myself that much. I’ve done that enough times. The way I played was very physical. It’s hard to pick a current player who looked like me. I was neither a great basic player nor a filigree technician, I got to the game more through strength and struggle.
Tennis is your great passion, you work as a trainer, expert, head of men’s tennis at DTB. Have you ever thought of withdrawing completely because you don’t feel like the whole “circus” anymore?
Everyone can tell that I love tennis. And it is clear that I will always love this sport. I am happy that I am active in different areas and that I can still be close to the action. I don’t know if the fans in the stadium, the players or the spectators in front of the TV like it. But I really enjoy it. And I intend to continue my work in the different areas for a long time to come.