Boris Becker was in India doing some press last week and shared many great stories, as well as some analysis of today’s game. One of the most amusing stories he told was about the first time he ever faced John McEnroe.
The subject of McEnroe came up when Becker was asked about his on-court behavior.
“My teacher in gamesmanship was a man from New York called John McEnroe,” Becker said at the Hindustan Times Leadership summit. “My English at 17, 18 was pretty limited. When I played [McEnroe] the first time in America, he won the first serve. At the changeover, he came to my chair. He said some words and I didn’t understand all the words, but I knew it wasn’t nice.
“After our tough battle, in the locker room, I asked him what was the meaning of what he said,” Becker continued.
Becker was interrupted by the moderator, who asked what McEnroe said. Becker provided an uncensored version.
“I’m going to beat the s— out of you.”
Becker happily noted that he fought off four match points to top McEnroe that match. He says being able to take the punches and overcome them helped him gain acceptance from some of the top players.
Becker, who won six grand slams and now serves as a tennis commentator for BBC, also shared many interesting thoughts about today’s game.
Becker was asked who the best player ever is. He said it was a question that cannot be answered because there are different eras of competition. He did say that Roger Federer has been the most successful player, but noted that it would be impossible to say how Roger would do against historical players like Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, or even himself.
Another media outlet quoted Becker as saying Federer would have had the best chance to play in his era, while some of the other top players in today’s game would have struggled.
“I don’t think (Rafael) Nadal or (Novak) Djokovic would have been so successful in the era of serve and volley but Federer could have played,” Becker reportedly said.
I would definitely disagree with Becker on that assessment. I watched over an hour of his videos from India and never heard the comment, so I don’t know when it was said, but I would disagree. Nadal might be the best clay court player of all time. Djokovic has a strong all-around game similar to Andre Agassi. I think both players would have done well in that era.
A separate outlet presented a similar yet conflicting quote.
“Back in the day, when serve and volley was the main form of the game, both Nadal and Djokovic would have had difficulties but would have still found success. Federer would have won a lot.”
Now that I can agree with.
One of Becker’s issues with today’s game is that there isn’t enough depth on the men’s side.
“Today there is just Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and (Andy) Murray. I can’t remember anyone else apart from these winning the Grand Slams in recent times.
“(Juan Martin) Del Potro and Murray might have won once or twice. Otherwise it is these three. The competition used to be different at my time.”
At the same time, one can also argue that the reason there is an appearance of a lack of depth is because there are some all-time great players in the game right now. Becker does acknowledge that point.
Becker believes that technology has changed the game.
“There isn’t serve and volley now because players don’t have to. They get so much power from the strings and rackets that they don’t have to come to net.”
Though Becker made many points about how today’s game is different, he commended the current players for being able to handle much more than he had to worry about. He notes that he didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, and smartphones to worry about. He also says he admires how the players are true models.
Here is a video of the 47-minute long session: