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22 February 2024

Game, set and love for boris

By Joy Chakravarty



Legendary German tennis star Boris Becker added to the already lengthy list of glowing tributes paid to the mesmerising skills and talent of current world No1 Roger Federer.


Becker zoomed to the top of world tennis popularity charts when he won his first title as a 17-year-old at the All England Club with a breathtaking display of power tennis.


The three-time Wimbledon champion was in Dubai recently, where he launched the Boris Becker Tower, a Dh500 million commercial development in the Business Bay area by ACI Real Estate.


And as the 40-year-old tennis legend spreads his business empire across the globe, he has no doubts Federer has taken over as the King of Wimbledon – a crown that fitted him so snugly in the 1980s and 1990s.


Becker, who also won two Australian Opens, one US Open and three Masters titles, said the Swiss star is in a league of his own and went on to add he was lucky he did not have to face him on a tennis court.


“Federer is just one of a kind. I get a feeling he is playing more against history books than other players on the Tour maybe with the exception of one or two players,” he said.
“Roger Federer is a five-time Wimbledon champion, a 12-time Grand Slam champion.

I really cannot see anyone challenging him at Wimbledon, and he is going to dominate on hard courts.


“I think I was lucky that I did not play a single match against him.


I had a long career and I was lucky enough to play against some of the greatest tennis players such as Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in the beginning, to the period where my biggest rival was Stefan Edberg and then against Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.

In those days, there was a lot of competition, lot of different styles – and that is what is lacking in men’s tennis today.


“I feel there isn’t enough competition. It is easy to pick a winner today, but that wasn’t the case in the 1980s.


“Maybe you can blame Federer for that, but that’s really what is happening with men’s tennis today.”


Given his prowess on grass, Becker seemed the right person to ask if he had any ideas how Federer can be stopped at Wimbledon.


But even he was searching for answers.


“I think the only way someone can beat him, especially on grass, is if someone plays with lots of power, and also has the ability of playing different kinds of games – mixing things up all the time.


“But at the moment, I really don’t see anyone doing that,” replied Becker.

But the German star feels Serbian sensation Novak Djokovic has the game and the potential to change the equation.


“I think Djokovic is the best of the rest. He has perhaps the best chance to come up and take the crown from Federer.


It will take some doing, but he is doing very well and the Australian Open win, which was his first Grand Slam win, will definitely add to his confidence,” said Becker.


“And don’t forget he reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year.


I was commentating on the matches and I thought he was very impressive.


What his performance there, in Australia, the US Open where he reached the final, and the French Open where he was a semi-finalist, proves is that he has the capability to play well on almost any surface. And he is young.”


After retiring from tennis in 1999, Becker is now heavily involved in building up the Boris Becker brand.

And becoming a Board Member of ACI Real Estate is just another step in his new career as an entrepreneur.


Talking about his association with ACI, Becker said: “From my point of view, it was actually a no-brainer to be associated with something that also involves Michael Schumacher and Niki Lauda.


And I am quite impressed with what Robin Lohmann [Managing Director, ACI Real Estate] and his team are doing here in Dubai.


“I have been lucky to have travelled around some of the exciting destinations in the world, and I have an eye and a nose for what’s hot.


I have been coming to Dubai since the early 1990s and I have seen how amazing the development has been. I was not going to let this opportunity pass.


“As a tennis star, or as any professional athlete, there comes a time when you are around 30 and you have to start thinking about a whole new career. Because physically, you can only play until a certain age and then you have to retire.


So I have tried to develop my brand name Boris Becker, under which I sell Mercedes Benz cars, with whom I have been involved with for a long time now; tennis racquets and tennis clothings.


“My equipment company has signed up with the upcoming German star Benjamin Becker, and we have recently come out with a new range of high-performance tennis racquets,” said the former tennis star.


Getting back to tennis, and the allegations of match-fixing surrounding the game in recent times, did he ever face a situation when he was asked to throw a match?


Becker said: “I can say with absolute certainty that there was neither match-fixing, nor doping, during my time.


“In my opinion, the reports about match-fixing are a bit exaggerated. I don’t think a match between Federer and Nadal can be fixed.


I don’t think Djokovic won the Australian Open because all his opponents were betting against their own match.


“Some players have been caught, but they are not even in the top-20. Yes, we do have some black sheep, but that is the case in every section of society.”


And finally, given all the success he enjoyed, what is Becker’s key to being successful?

“The top guys like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and others are totally focused on what they are doing, and it was not different during my playing days.


“I think it is the one-mindedness which makes a top player,” said Becker.


“I always believed that tennis should not only be your job, but your passion. Like in any other business, or in any other sphere of life, you cannot reach the top if you are not completely focused on what you are doing.”



Boris becker on...


his sporting idol

I’d say it is Muhammad Ali. I believe boxing is the ultimate challenge between man against man.


When I was young, my father would wake me up every time Ali was fighting. Also, he had a point of view about politics that wasn’t supported at that time. It was kind of dangerous back in those days.


Yet he stood up for what he believed in. He was a great believer in his own religion and that is another thing I admire – someone having great faith in his own religion and standing up for it. All this makes him a very, very special person.




We grew up together on the tennis court. She was two years younger than me.


Out of the small area where we were brought up, it is just amazing that two world No1s can come from such a small town.


She is the best women’s tennis player of all time and is a great mother of two children. She has a great husband in Andre [Agassi]. It is just a match that fits.