Since August 2017, Boris Becker has been head of men’s tennis in Germany. With the Davis Cup quarterfinal battle with Spain on the horizon, Becker spoke to DW about the sport’s rise.DW: Mr. Becker, do you think Germany will return to the peak of tennis, like in the 1980s, in the foreseeable future?
Boris Becker: We are currently in a tennis boom in Germany, thanks to success in both the men’s and women’s game. In Angie [Angelique] Kerber and Julia Görges we have two world-class players. We have a world-class player in Sascha [Alexander] Zverev. Why not? We are working hard towards having talented 18 and 19-year-olds. Of course we have to get past football. I don’t know if that’s possible, but there is enough space for other sports – tennis included.
What was it at the end of the 1980s that made Germany tennis so successful?
It was a combination of things that came together. We had a very good association, and a very good regional association, in that case the one in Baden, great coaches and a very familiar environment that gave me the opportunity to play tennis – and a slice of good fortune of course.
The peak was in 1989. You and Steffi Graf at Wimbledon. It caused an incredible boom in the sport.
Yes, perhaps it started with my Wimbledon win in 1985. I was the trailblazer. Then Graf caught up and won her titles. Then on the same day, a Sunday in July, we both won Wimbledon. The Federal President was in the Royal Box. It was a special moment for German tennis.
Were you jealous that you didn’t win the Golden Slam [All four Grand Slams and the Olympic gold in the same year]?
I wasn’t good enough. It had nothing to do with jealousy. Graf did it in 1988. I was always happy just to win a Grand Slam in a year. She did it more consistently.
Read more: 5 facts about Boris Becker
Why did you decide to take up this post at the German tennis association seven months ago? What do you think is possible?
I think I have had success as a coach in recent years and the association got in touch a while ago about taking on this post. It [the job] didn’t really exist beforehand. There wasn’t a “Head of men’s tennis.” I said I was happy to do it, to be given the honor, the trust, the responsibility. The players responded really well, as did the coaches.
Have you got someone in mind, when the time comes to replace Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic? Can you see a new generation of tennis players?
There’s one very good player in Germany and that’s [Alexander] Zverev. The Russians have a pair of very good players: Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev are excellent. Denis Shapovalov from Canada is also very good. There are some players, between 19 and 21 years old, who are knocking at the door. I think it’s only a matter of time before they overtake the older players. Nick Kyrgios is another player I like. He is just 22 years old. People forget how young he is. It’s an exciting group of players. Dominic Thiem is another who keeps drawing attention. There are four to six players in the world capable of everything. It’s only a matter of time until they’re number one, two and three in the world.
There are rumors that you could become Alexander Zverev’s coach?
I have been in touch with Sascha [Alexander] and Mischa Zverev for years. We are friends, and I know his father well. We have talked about tennis for years, which is no surprise. In my current job as head of men’s tennis, I am also obliged to talk about tennis with him and his brother. I enjoy that and we do it often. But his official coach is his father. He is the coach and I think it will be that way for a while. But I am his friend, his advisor and I’m there to support him when he needs me.
Next up for Germany’s Davis Cup team is the quarterfinal against Spain. How do you see that going?
We’re outsiders, but we were against Australia too. If our team is all there, we are strong and we’ll do what we can to win three points.
Boris Becker won Wimbledon in 1985 aged 17, becoming the youngest tennis player to do so. Along with Steffi Graf, Becker delivered a German tennis boom. Becker won 49 tournaments, including three Wimbledon titles. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Becker won gold in the doubles competing with Michael Stich. In 1999, Becker retired and ten years later he worked as a commentator for the BBC. Since then, the former pro has been a co-commentator on Eurosport and between 2013 and 2016 was Novak Djokovic’s head coach. In August 2017, Becker took over the new position of “Head of men’s tennis” in Germany’s tennis association.
This interview was conducted by Gerhard Sonnleitner