Opinion: Boris Becker and the Germans - no happy end in sight | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 23.08.2017
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Opinion: Boris Becker and the Germans - no happy end in sight

It's all Novak Djokovic's fault. Had he not fallen out with his former coach, Boris Becker wouldn't have to work for the German tennis federation. This will not end well, writes DW's Marko Langer.

Boris Becker's knowledge of tennis is unquestionable. Centre Court was his living room, the stage on which he won three Wimbledon titles, the 17-year-old's famous lunge across the turf sparking tennis-mania across Germany. It's a story that has left its mark on generations of tennis players and fans - and on me too.

‘Any point will do'

However, Becker's authority on the sport is perhaps better exemplified by another, much smaller incident. After Andy Murray ended British tennis' 78-year wait for a men's Wimbledon champion in 2013, the BBC produced a documentary about the day Murray made history. At the end of the film, we see Murray watching a replay of match point. The Scot hears the comment from Centre Court's tiny commentary box: "Any point will do."

Langer Marko Kommentarbild App

DW's Marko Langer

That short quote should probably be engraved on a plaque at SW19. No other sentence describes the tension of a match point so accurately: "Any point will do." And the man who said it? A man hugely respected by British fans and players alike. Murray knew: "It's Boris."

Read more Boris Becker declared bankrupt

A new role

Now, Becker has taken on the role of "head of men's tennis" at the German tennis federation (DTB). His appointment was announced at a press conference in Frankfurt this Wednesday.

But what will tennis pros think of the appointment? They probably don't really care, but the notoriously independent 18(!) regional associations are unlikely to be too enthusiastic. Neither are the team and tournament players from German clubs who are forced to squeeze an extra five euros ($5.88) per tournament for the notoriously tight-fisted DTB. The federation is about as popular in tennis as the German football association (DFB) is among the ultras in the stands -  not very!

Boris Becker (picture alliance/EPA/dpa/Hayoung Jeon)

Boris Becker has a lot of tennis expertise, but will that help him when he joins the DTB?

'Can anybody tell me …?'

What's more, the DTB already has a vice-president responsible for elite sport (Stephan Hordorff), a sporting director (Klaus Eberhard) and a Davis Cup team boss (Michael Kohlmann). And, as far as we know, none of them are going anywhere. So what's the "head of men's tennis" meant to do? Vice President Hordorff would be well-advised to take a look in the archives of "Spiegel" magazine, which on June 21, 1999 reported about a dispute between the federation, elite players and the captain of the German Davis Cup team. Hordorff himself is quoted as saying: "Can anybody tell me what the team boss actually does?” A mutual parting of the ways quickly followed. And the captain at the time? Boris Becker.

The same question can also be applied here: Can anybody tell me what the head of men's tennis actually does? Could it be the case that the tennis federation, looking for a way to deflect the constant criticism it is faced with, decided that a good way of doing this might be to bring Boris back in some capacity? To profit from his popularity? Nothing official has been said about how much this will cost the DTB, and they don't want any speculation about this in the first place. If all goes well, that won't matter anyway.

Spectacular headlines

Then there is the other Boris Becker, the gambler, the man who makes the headlines, for anything from conceiving a child in a broom closet to going bankrupt. He's also the man, who used an utterly self-indulgent press conference to unveil his autobiography and appeared in a ridiculous RTL television show wearing ridiculous hats. This explains why so far, there has been no happy end to the love affair between Boris Becker and the German media.

Boris Becker (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Rain)

Boris Becker is a beloved tennis figure in Britain, but the same may not be true in Germany

It's a different story in Britain, where even the follies of an heir to the throne are readily forgiven. It is also a different story with Steffi Graf, for since she retired, you can count the number of interviews she has given on the fingers of one hand.

I would be happy to see Becker be successful and so self-assured as he is in his commentary on the BBC or Eurosport. But I just can't see this happening.

A lot of work needs doing in German tennis, beginning with putting and end to the 18 state-level federations. The development system needs improvement. The once proud but long-suffering ATP tournament in Hamburg needs to be put on a solid footing again. On the other hand, you can't expect an Alexander Zverev, who is on his way to becoming one of the world's top men's players, to be prepared to listen to much that Becker or the head of the Hamburg state federation have to say.

Barbara Rittner a good choice

At least the DTB did come up with one good idea. To go along with the "head of men's tennis," there will be a female equivalent. Barbara Rittner, who until now has been captain of Germany's Fed Cup team, has been given a promotion of sorts.  However, it would have been a better idea to have made the hard-working, intelligent and successful coach (despite her lack of Fed Cup titles as a coach) the "head" of both German women's and men's tennis.

However, that would have been too modern or too courageous a move for the suits who run the DTB. Far easier, then, to pose for a photo with the man who has three Wimbledon titles to his name.

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