New Delhi: Legendary tennis player Boris Becker has rated Roger Federer very highly and said due to his sound technique the Swiss probably could have been the only player to have competed successfully in the “serve and volley” era.
“The reason why Federer is still successful at the age of 31 is because he has got a good technique. He can play from the baseline and when he has to, he can also come to the net more often than other players,” Becker said during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here.
“I don’t think (Rafael) Nadal or (Novak) Djokovic would have been so successful in the era of serve and volley but Federer could have played,” the German added.
Stating that competition used to be different during his time when there were more number of players as compared to the modern era, Becker said, “Today there is just Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and (Andy) Murray. I can’t remember anyone else apart from these winning the Grand Slams in recent times.
“(Juan Martin) Del Potro and Murray might have won once or twice. Otherwise it is these three. The competition used to be different at my time.”
The 44-year-old Becker, however, said that the biggest change that the game of tennis has witnessed over the years is the kind of “racquets the players use today”.
Becker refused to name any particular opponent whom he thought was most difficult to face but said he had respect for each and every individual he had played against.
“There were lots who were tough to face. The likes of (John) McEnroe, (Jimmy) Connors, Stefan Edberg, and later Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. I played against three-four generations of world class players but if you have to get to the final you have to win the first round and then the next.
“So you have to respect every individual you are playing. On a bad day, you can lose to anyone,” insisted Becker.
“I always wanted to have a substantial career and the fact that I was able to play for so long is my biggest achievement.
“In the late stage of my career, I would say playing against Sampras or Agassi was very rewarding because they were the new kids on the block and doing well against them would give me a chance to play for another year. Had they been not there I would have stopped earlier,” he said.
Becker, however, said that he would always regret missing out on a French Open title during his illustrators career.
“Only regret is, I have never won a French Open. My game wasn’t suited for clay. And obviously I would have liked to have 12-13 Grand Slam titles but when you are playing against the big players, it is very difficult,” said the legendary German, who has won six Grand Slam titles.
Asked if there were no fascinating characters anymore on the tennis circuit as it used to be during his days, Becker said, “I won’t say there are no more fascinating personalities in tennis. All these top players like Federer, Nadal or Djokovic are great ambassadors of the game.
“The only thing that has changed is the fact that the players do not behave badly on courts these day but I am not saying that it is bad.”
Becker said it was a difficult decision to call it quits after having played the game since the age of 16.
“I didn’t want anybody to tell me ‘why you are still around?’ I was too proud and if I wasn’t good enough anymore I would do something else. But it is easier said than done. With this decision you enter an unknown territory. But I felt I had too much respect for the game and for my own career,” he said about his retirement at the age 32.
Asked if India could produce top tennis players, Becker said, “I do think it is very much possible with so many kids playing tennis. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t have world’s top tennis players from India. With the likes of Ramesh Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes…there is a lot of knowledge but I don’t see a 22-year-old from Delhi playing in quarterfinals in Wimbledon.
“I don’t know why in a country with such a rich sporting history cannot produce more greats. Why you have only one or two doubles good players in a country of 1.2 billion?,” he asked.