Former German professional tennis player Peter Moraing says German tennis needs another superhero to see a boost in interest - and Sabine Lisicki does not fit the bill.
DW: Will Sabine Lisicki's good performance in Wimbledon give a much-needed boost to tennis in Germany?
Peter Moraing: I think what we need – and that is not just here in Germany, the same goes for the United States, for example – we need a new superstar. Very badly so. If Sabine wins now that is good, but we also need a man who can win the major tournaments, we have been saying this for quite a while: If you have a hero in a sport, people get interested, TV stations come to cover the sport, the younger generation will come into the clubs to try out for themselves, whether they like the game or not. Like in Switzerland now, for example, the clubs are pretty full and the schools are very busy and that is because of Roger [Federer] and before that they had Martina Hingis a few years ago, so the superstars are very important for the sport in their country.
So is Germany doing enough to prepare the next generation?
Well, you cannot really plan to create a superstar. You can plan to create good players and help them work hard and practice hard, but in the end you need more to become a superstar. They need to train hard too, of course, but I believe you are born to be a superstar.
No one had planned to have Boris Becker win Wimbledon at age seventeen. It was not because of any plan that Michael Stich graduated from school at age nineteen, starts playing tennis and then goes to win Wimbledon just one year later. This is nothing you can plan. And in top class tennis Germany is doing well at the moment, we have a lot of players in the top 100 we are the country with the second or third highest number of players in the top 100. What we really need is another superstar again.
Compared to today what was it like when you started playing tennis in the 1970s?
I was thirteen years old when I started playing tennis. And back then in the 1970s tennis was just for a few people who had a lot of money. I got introduced to tennis by my parents and started playing in a very small club, but then we moved and in the new neighborhood right across from our house there was a brand new club set up. That was in the mid 70s. And later when the tennis boom started and new clubs were set up everywhere. Tennis became bigger and bigger when we were lucky that we had Steffi [Graf] and Boris [Becker], who made the whole sport even more popular. Tennis was on TV almost every day and that was then the peak of the whole tennis boom here in Germany. And after that it went down, but we're still doing okay. Now we still have 1.7 million members in tennis clubs, down from 2.5 million at the height of the tennis boom.
When you were playing professionally before the tennis boom set in Germany, what was that like?
The smaller tournaments were very badly organized. There were no physiotherapists; it was hard to find a doctor in some places. The whole thing was more like amateur sports, not like today. For my brother and me it was a great time, it was fun, we could travel and see the world, while playing tennis at the same time – but it's nothing like now, when young professionals from Germany travel to tournaments in Asia and elsewhere and it is way more professionalized than it was at our time.
What was it like to be at Wimbledon back then?
For me it was more like an adventure then. I felt honored and I was just happy to have made it into the tournament. This had been a dream I had when I started playing.
Tennis used to have the reputation in Germany of being a sport for the upper class only, would you say that that has changed in the last twenty years?
Yes, that has definitely changed. There are so many clubs now, so many tennis courts. Anyone who wants to play can just go and play.
Peter Moraing, born 1961, is a former German professional tennis player. He had two appearances at Wimbledon, including competing in the 1993 men's doubles with his younger brother Heiner. He and Heiner now run their own tennis training center in western Germany.
Dave Raish conducted the interview.