For all the folks who don't speak "Deuce."
Fräulein Wunder, Fräulein-Wunder
A new generation of players is on their way to wake Germany from its tennis-sleep
Whoever uses the word tennis in Germany is thinking of Boris Becker and Steffi Graf. A whole generation has crashed in light of those two monuments. After their retirements in 1999, TV completely withdrew its support for the sport. The German tennis federation lost over half a million of its 1,8 million members.
Daniel Germann, Paris
Tennis halls were closed or used for anything but tennis all across the nation. The traditional German Open in Hamburg lost his status in the tour calendar. The German market, which generated one third of the TV and sponsorship income worldwide at the height of the Becker-Graf-hype, became a niche market. In short: Tennis, more or less, stopped existing in Germany.
Now new seeds are starting to sprout from those ruins at the French Open in Paris. Andrea Petkovic and Julia Görges are in the third round. Qualifier Sabine Lisicki didn't manage to advance in her second round match against Russian Vera Zvonareva after failing to convert a match point and being tormented by cramps, eventually having to be taken off the court on a stretcher. The nation suffered with her.
The newfound interest in tennis mostly carries the face of Petkovic, born in Bosnia but having grown up in Darmstadt and feeling 100 percent German. In March she defeated reigning number 1 Caroline Wozniacki in Key Biscayne and thereby was the first German to manage this feat since Steffi Graf's victory over Martina Hingis in the 1999 French Open final. In that moment it just all clicked for her, Petkovic said. After her second-round victory, she said: "I still look at Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal and have a lot of respect. But I don't feel like I'm standing next to gods anymore. This is my place. This is where I belong."
It is the conviction of a women who is extraordinary in more ways than one and who is a blessing for a flailing womens tennis. Petkovic completed her Abitur
with a 1,1 average. She studies political science and loves Goethe, because tennis alone is simply too boring for her. Her father, once a tennis player himself, isn't making her do any of it, but rather warned her of wasting her intelligence on sports. But, of all things, a serious knee injury in the first round of the Australian Open 2008, which almost cost her a whole year, convinced her that tennis was her world.
Petkovic doesn't fulfill any clichés. Maybe that's because of her age; in September she will be 24 and thereby won't belong to the young guns anymore. But for a long time, Steffi Graf's shadow hampered her development. When she met the icon a year ago in Key Biscayne for the first time, she didn't dare speak to her. This spring in Las Vegas, Petkovic played with her for 45 minutes. Since then the trauma has disappeared. Petkovic says: "I'm glad I don't have to follow in her footsteps all on my own. We won't ever be able to compare ourselves to her. But at least we started a small tennis boom in Germany." A new Fräulein-Wunder