From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.13 :: Apr. 01, 2010

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TENNIS / INTERVIEW/BORIS BECKER

In awe of Roger

Boris Becker calls Roger Federer the real champion. “He has won 16 Grand Slam titles. I come from the world of tennis; I know how difficult it is to win even one Grand Slam title, but this man has won every year one Major title or more over the past seven years,” says the former Wimbledon champion.

Even 13 years after his retirement, former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, 42, continues to attract people of all nationalities. They find his diplomacy and charm particularly endearing. In the days leading up to the 2010 Laureus World Sports Awards in Abu Dhabi, the German, a winner of six Grand Slam singles titles, was the toast of the world media.

Questions from the media ranged from the current state of world tennis, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to Tiger Woods, and Becker, an entrepreneur and a part-time poker player, answered them all with patience. As for his choice of the Laureus Sportsman of the Decade, Becker, even without a moment's hesitation, said: “In my eyes, Roger is the real champion. He has won 16 Grand Slam titles. I come from the world of tennis; I know how difficult it is to win even one Grand Slam title, but this man has won every year one Major title or more over the past seven years.

“He's the ultimate tennis professional in my eyes. You know, his wife had twins last August, but it didn't matter to him. He continued and went on to play in the final of the U.S. Open. I'm sure his mind was on his family more than tennis then. He defines a good athlete.”

Becker also picked Serbia's Novak Djokovic for special praise. “According to me, he is one of the best all-court players in the game today. He can play with equal ease on hard-courts, grass and clay. I wish he wins more Grand Slam titles,” he said.

Becker, who is the vice-chairman of the Laureus Academy and who is also involved in quite a few social projects as part of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, was of the view that Rafael Nadal will come back strongly from his injury. “Nadal is a young and determined individual, and I am sure he'll fight back,” he said. On Britain's Andy Murray, Becker said, “He's too good not to win (a Grand Slam title).”

Talking of Tiger Woods, Becker said the American golfing great has to be measured in terms of his achievements on the course and not off it.

“He is one of the most famous sportspersons and so people want to know what happened behind the scene. We came to know of stories that we didn't expect to hear, but it should not matter. I think the next big challenge for him would be to make a comeback,” Becker said.

“True champions come back from difficult positions and Tiger has shown that on the golf course,” he added.

Becker still cherishes memories of the 1997 Golf Flake Open in Chennai where hordes of fans drooled over him.

“The weather was hot. I know that India has a big tradition in tennis, but I was surprised at the interest shown by the people there for the game,” he said.

Becker then switched to the 2010 World Cup. “England might reach the final but Germany will beat them!” he quipped.

K. Keerthivasan



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