Boris Becker: 'I totally believe I'd beat Roger Federer'
The 1980s and ‘90s gave us some of the most unique characters in tennis and Becker was one of the biggest.
This December, the six-time major champion will be speaking at Doha GOALS, a forum that focuses on sport as a driver for social change.
Sport360° caught up with the German ace to find out more about his upcoming visit to the Gulf and talk tennis.
Tell us about your involvement this year with Doha GOALS…
I’m very honoured to be asked to be part of this symposium, speaking about the importance of sport in the emerging markets. We believe that sport has the power to change the world and I’m a living example.
Obviously I’m not from an emerging market, I wasn’t from the ghetto when I started playing but quite often, sport has that power to change a person’s life. When you don’t have money for education, for proper schools, sport is sometimes the only way out and that’s the message I’m going to be speaking about.
You won a title in Doha, you must have good memories from this region…
I have a bit of history with Doha. I was one of the first good players to participate in the Doha Open in 1993 when I never knew the city nor knew the region existed in sports. It widened my horizons and my education got better through that.
How do you spend most of your time now?
I live in London, that’s where my office is. I have different roles. I’m an ambassador for international brands all around the world. I work in television. I have bits of interest in the fields of technology, energy, real estate, that have nothing to do with brand Boris Becker. I’m very busy, I like to be busy, I love to work and I like the fact that through that work I can still travel the world.
You’re obviously also on the TV a lot as a commentator, have you had any funny experiences on air?
Once you’re doing a live commentary everything you say is out, you really have to be careful what to say. But if you think about it too much then you can’t speak. So you have to let it go and the flow has to come. But sometimes some funny words come out, trust me.
Do you ever wonder if you played Roger Federer at your peak, who would win?
I totally believe I would win but I can’t prove it. Roger is a winner of 17 Grand Slams, he’s arguably the best of all time, he’s one tough opponent. But would he have beaten Becker on grass, Borg on clay, McEnroe on grass? Very difficult to say.
What do you think is the main difference between the tour in your days and now?
We had a stronger competition. We had more players with a realistic chance to win a Grand Slam whereas if you look at the last 10 years you have five who have achieved that feat. In my era you had a lot of good teenagers, Edberg, Wilander, Chang, McEnroe were all teenagers coming through. Where now guys are 23, 24 breaking through. That’s the biggest difference. Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense to me. But it’s a fact.
Pat Cash claims the current era of tennis is boring and the game of Djokovic and Nadal is predictable, do you agree?
Pat is a friend of mine but we don’t necessarily agree always on tennis. I think the game is very fascinating right now. It’s true that more players are playing from the baseline but there’s a reason behind that and it’s called technology.
The racquets players use today allow them to stand three or four feet behind the baseline and still manage to accelerate the power but you have the other players that try to find a way. Some come to the net, some shorten the rallies… but I think it’s far from boring, I find it very exciting.
Andy Roddick recently revealed he almost had a fight with Djokovic in the locker room. I find it surprising that doesn’t happen more often. Was it more frequent in your day?
I’m also surprised it doesn’t happen more often but I think that most top players are media savvy. Of course (it happened). Our locker room wasn’t always a safe place. We didn’t have microphones on the courts, language was very different. It was a different era altogether. It was more rock ’n roll. Which isn’t bad.
Personally I think [John] McEnroe wouldn’t have survived a whole year now because of all the fines he would’ve accommodated. Even I had my moments of misbehaviour and steaming around and breaking racquets.
You mention in your new autobiography that you wanted to give your side of the story about specific aspects of your life. You’re quite active on Twitter, do you think it would have helped you express yourself better when you were a player?
I’m a big fan of social media. I think it’s a very important communication tool. It’s free and a message can spread around quickly. It would have helped me back in the day, I would have been on Facebook and Twitter all the time. You get to learn a lot about other people’s lives. It’s a great tool for international communication.
Federer thinks he can do well next year because he doesn’t have much to defend. Do you think he’ll have a good 2014?
I hope so. I wish him well. He’s been the best we’ve had. Realistically, yes he can win again the Grand Slams. Is it going to be easier next year? No. The competition is getting better.
I think Djokovic, Murray, Nadal and del Potro are the ones to look out for. Roger is over 32, it doesn’t get easier with age, recovery time is longer. But who can argue with the greatest? If he wants to play tennis, we should applaud him. And he always had the personality of seeing the glass half full.
Rod Laver said he thinks Nadal will win the Grand Slam. Do you agree?
Nadal has the talent to do it but it’s very difficult and he has to be very consistent throughout the whole year and has to peak at the right time. From a sporting point of view Nadal has won all four Grand Slams so from that aspect alone he’s probably the most natural one to win it. But I think it’s very unlikely.