Becker blasts new generation
Jamie Jackson hears the three-time winner lament the attitude to major championships
Sunday June 22, 2003
Boris Becker believes the wide-open nature of the men's singles at Wimbledon is a sure sign the ATP need to restructure the tour as players no longer seem to take the major championships as seriously as they should be doing.
Becker, who won three of his seven Wimbledon finals, believes the current generation merely shrug after a poor showing in a grand slam tournament before heading off to the next event, knowing more cash and ranking points are just round the corner.
'Every week a player has a chance to make a mark,' Becker said. 'You only have one Wimbledon and you have another four or five big tournaments that should make or break a year. But the current system is not like this. If everybody knows this is Wimbledon and then there's a month's break afterwards, we would see much more drama and heartache.
'We don't see enough of the top players playing each other at major championships because there's too much tennis and they can't focus. With the greatest respect, this is why we see a [David] Nalbandian in the Wimbledon final.'
He went on: 'You shouldn't even be ranked in the top five without winning a slam. Through the years, respect comes from whether you've won a major, not reaching the semi-finals of some other tournament. These young players have to get used to the fact that they are only judged by the number of [major] championships they have won.'
Becker believes there are four candidates this year - the defending champion Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, who beat Goran Ivanisevic to win the title in 1992, Andy Roddick, winner at Queen's last Sunday, and Roger Federer of Switzerland, whose best performance in a grand slam event was his defeat of the champion Pete Sampras at Wimbledon two years ago, en route to the quarter-finals.
'Federer's performance in slams is disappointing, and I don't think Roddick is really that much of a professional because with his game he should have won much more. Both he and Federer have the potential and talent but they have to prove it,' he added.
'Hewitt and Agassi are in their own league because they are the only ones out of the potential winners who have done it. Nowadays there are too many matches and players where you don't see emotions, where you don't see the ultimate battle, man against man.'
Becker is also unhappy at the apparent lack of on-court psychology. 'Most guys start at two o'clock, think about their serve, maybe the return and that's it. There's no mental warfare out there.
'Pete Sampras was my hardest opponent because of his poker face. You could never know if he was happy or unhappy. That was his strategy and it worked well. Andre has learnt a lot over the past 10 years. He is much more of a poker player. And Hewitt is pretty good. It is a question of learning and of realising that this is a weapon.
'The last couple of years the flavour has been almost too friendly.
Everybody is friends and good guys and blah, blah, bull * . This is not what sport is about. There's one winner and one loser and that's it. I would like to see Roddick-Agassi more often, I thought it [their semi-final at Queen's] was a great match.'
Becker, who won six grand slam tournaments in total, one US and two Australian Opens making up his portfolio, does feel that the women's tour has got the balance right, however. 'A good year for the Williams sisters or Kim Clijsters is not whether they have won in Key Biscayne but if they've won a slam, and that's where we should go. The Belgian girls in the Paris final was great.'
All is not doom and gloom, however, and it seems that Becker's views are being taken on board. 'For the first time in a long time the ATP tour and the ITF are having talks about changing the schedule because they realise this is a product that is going downhill and instead of taking away from it, we have to give a bit back,' he said. 'I'm sure by 2005 we will have a different schedule and different priorities.'
Becker also believes that a board of three or four people should be made responsible for overall control of the sport, and its regulations. 'There are too many rules, the players can't do anything,' he added. 'Ilie Nastase went overboard, so it is important that we have boundaries, but now it is too proper, too politically correct. People pay a lot for their tickets and we have to remember this is entertainment.
'Tennis is unique. It is man against man, very raw, and this is what we need to get back
. Hewitt is so important because he puts his will on the court and in the opponent's mind. I wish there were more players like that.'
I have to totally agree with Becker with everything he is saying. Even the points about the tour's getting to "friendly". Everything he is saying is the truth. And when I think about it, Over the past couple of years, all these commentators, even fans etc have been chaning their opinions on many issues, and the changes they are makin in their judegements are for the worse. Players are not crediting the slams like they should be. Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Williams Sisters and Lindsay Davenport in my opinion are really the only ones in the past years that have shown real dedication to the slams. They have shown they know what they mean. Only 4 come in a year. When you see this, you just have to think how pitiful it must be. Right now we have people having fits over Serena and Venus for w/drawling from tournies. But look at the big picture people, they won't be out of the slams. Now that is a postive thing for some, and more-so a negative thing for the majority of this board.
But I totally agree w/ what Boris had to say about you shouldn't even be in the top 5 w/out having atleast won 1 slam. I try and say this over and over again. As great as people are talking about kim, when her carrer is brought up in the future. Kim Cljsters the 2003 Bank of the West Classic champion probably won't even come out of anyones mouth in say 20 years. People refer to people as like Pete Samprass the 14 time Grand Slam Champion. Even when watching Venus and Serena play, a lot of times the commentators annouce like, and serving first is 4 time Slam Champion Venus Williams etc. People do you see the point that is trying to get across. 1 we need a new ranking system for the men and the women. 2 they need new schedules. 3 these youngsters on the tour need to realize the true "meaning" of number 1, and the "true meaning" of the slams. They aren't just big tournies w/ a lot of points. Personally I think Kim, Justine, Amelie, etc feel this way. As much as they play, they don't show the dissapointments of losses you see from so many of the greats that have already won slams and know what it takes.
As high a level the sport is at. The players on the tour are really bringing it down. They now more than ever are concered about points and money more than they've ever been. I can honeslty say I think the majority of the wta tour are addicted to "points system" Knowing right now, that if you are a decent player with a couple of weapons, you don't have to even focus on winning slams in your career. you can just focus on a consistent semi/finals basis of year long tennis.
You can tell what players are going to be greats, who really wants the slams, who really wants number 1 for the right reasons. You have greats that have won slams, and been number 1, that have tell stories about how when they were young, they always wanted to win this slam, they always really wanted to be number 1. Even if some players thought this way, you can tell its almost left them. The desire of winning Slams is completely even out of the top 10 w/ the exception of Lindsay D, and the Williams Sisters (this is my opinion people), oh add Monica in there I know that desire will never leave her.
But people honestly it is really sad. Not only do you have players out there trying to collect ranking points and money, more than trying to collect slams and tournie wins, but you all as fans, have changed up and are trying to agree w/ what these people are doing. Calling a player having a great year, consistenly loosing in semis and finals? not winning slams? since when was that "great" Players and the Fans have/and are still stooping to new lows in this sport. Yeah getting to semis and finals all the time is a great feet no matter what. But are you winning them consistently as you are getting there. We have 2 players that have made it to the semis and finals of all their tournies played this year. And only 1 of them is winning more than they are loosing and only 1 is winning the slams, and only 1 is beating the other. And yet when you look at the big picture and its clear this 1 as in Serena is having a much better year, we have people really trying to put up an agrugment of stupidty (again my opinion) how this other gurl (kim) is having the best year out of the wta tour.
We need to get the spirits of the WTA and ATP back to what is was like 3 years ago. Although you do have 2 sisters really dominating the sport, that doesn't mean you have to back off w/ your plans and ideas of becoming number 1 by winning slams and beating the top players. So many people have reverted to this option, when they really didn't have to. It shows very much so that they are doing this. You even have Kim not thinking getting to number 1 is "that big a deal", and I think its mainly b/c she knows who is the real number 1.
Listen to how silly this really is. You have people say if Kim reaches number 1, she is deseriving of it, but we know who the "real" number 1 is. People there can only be 1. Every time I hear this, its like people are saying there are two number 1's in the world. Only 1 person can be deserving. You can't say Kim is deserving, but Serena really is it. You're making both of them number 1. It doesn't work like that. The WTA especialy I feel really need to have a sit down, take a look at the ranking system, and the schedule. I honestly think if they don't change it, the greats you already have, will be there to stay. Its rare you come across players that can actually chase record books. And when you have a sytem like this, that shows clear flaws, it needs to be fixed.
I also think there is a different attidue now, compared to back in the day. I think the ranking system would have been done been fixed back in the day if Say Martina Navratilova or Steffi Graf, had someone like Kim doing what Kim is doing.
Things need a fixing, and until they get fixed, again as high a level the tour is at right now, they are on the downfall.