It was a little more than 30 years ago that a fair-skinned, blonde German made a massive statement by winning Wimbledon at the age of 17.
Three decades later and Boris Becker was able to enjoy another Wimbledon win except that this time it was as the coach of world No-1 Novak Djokovic.
“At 17 I didn’t think I was going to be coaching at 47 so I think the first one. As a player it’s all about yourself. You have to win,” Becker said when asked for his view on which of those victories he held most dear at the Discovery Vitality Summit in Johannesburg this week.
Becker was approached by the Serbian tennis supremo to take on a coaching role in the aftermath of his decline to No-2 in the world and the now 47-year-old admitted that he had been apprehensive about taking the job.
“When Novak Djokovic called me and asked whether I would be interested in coaching him my response was why?” said Becker who then proceeded to share the story of the weekend he spent with Djokovic at his home in Monte Carlo and how he eventually agreed.
“We met at his home in Monte Carlo and we spoke tennis for 48 hours. I told him that I would do it but only under one condition – that you play to win. It was a risk I was able to take and I was thankful for his confidence in me,” said Becker.
The game of tennis has changed a lot since Becker, who won 49 career titles as well as an Olympic gold in 1992 and six Grand Slam titles, last played and he admitted that there is a lot more tension in the locker rooms when the big name players are on a collision course.
“If you’re not the one who is going to believe in yourself then nobody is going to do it for you,” he said.
These days players also face the pressures of being in the limelight a lot more what with smartphones, social media and on-court microphones – a factor that Becker admits would have been a problem in his heyday.
“The prize money wouldn’t have covered the fines,” he quipped before touching on the skills of Roger Federer – coached by former rival Stefan Edberg and who Becker described as a “magician on the court” – and on the fight shown by Kevin Anderson at this year’s Championship at the All-England Club.
“He was by far the most difficult match we had at Wimbledon,” Becker said of Anderson who pushed the eventual winner to five sets in a match that spilled over to a second day after bad light halted play with the match poised at four sets apiece.
Having enjoyed a career as one of the biggest names in tennis, Becker was succinct when describing what kept him going throughout his career and what continues to motivate him.
“Winning is the ultimate drug,” he said.