Roland-Garros: his friendship with Djokovic, Swiatek, Alcaraz and the “NextGen”… Boris Becker confides

Roland-Garros: his friendship with Djokovic, Swiatek, Alcaraz and the “NextGen”… Boris Becker confides

2023-05-28 08:04:27

Visiting Paris at the beginning of May, on the occasion of the Laureus World Sports Awards, of which he is one of the ambassadors, Boris Becker gave us a few minutes of his time. He said he was “happy to be back in Paris”, a few days before a Grand Slam tournament where he never managed to go beyond the semi-final stage, unlike the Open Australia, Wimbledon and the US Open, all of which he won.

But Boris Becker assures him, he has “good memories” of his time at Porte d’Auteuil, especially when he was Novak Djokovic’s coach, when he won the tournament in 2016. A few weeks before the start of the competition, he gave us the list of his favorites for this new edition of Roland-Garros. Without wanting to dwell too much on the subject, he also gave us some news, five months after his release from prison.

Since December, and your release from prison, how do you feel?

BORIS BECKER. I feel good. I am happy to be out of all these prohibitions. I am happy to have found my own world, and I am grateful for the support I have received.

You are close to Novak Djokovic, who, as you said in the press, has supported you a lot in recent months. What relationship do you have with him?

He is a very close friend, both to me and to my family, and I love his very much. We worked together for a long time and we kept this closeness. I am really grateful for his help and support. He is an extraordinary boy.

How does he feel as Roland-Garros approaches? Do you think he can win?

He feels good, excited to play this tournament. At this point in his career, he is on his way to becoming the most successful player in history, with 23 Grand Slam tournaments to his credit. He would never have imagined going through this 15 years ago. Of course he can win!

Who are your favorites for the tournament?

Without Nadal, we can obviously cite Novak Djokovic as I said. He is a fantastic player who has already won here. I will also bet on the world number 1, Carlos Alcaraz, who, specifically on clay, is one of the favorites for the title. But I think we should also mention the rising stars of the discipline: Jannick Sinner, Holger Rune, Russian players including Medvedev and Rublev, who both have very good tennis. I think it’s quite open for men.

On the women’s side, it will be more closed. I will put a coin on either Iga Swiatek or Aryna Sabalenka. They are really the two players who dominate at the moment. They notably met in the final in Madrid in early May (in the final of the city’s Masters 1000, won by Sabalenka 2 sets to 1). It was an incredible game. I think these two players have their cards to play.

We are in Paris, Roland-Garros is the tournament which saw Rafael Nadal win 14 times. Do you think he’s the greatest of all time, at Roland but not only?

He is obviously the greatest champion in the history of Roland-Garros, and I think forever. Getting 14 titles here, I don’t think anyone else will ever be able to do that. But more generally, I’m not a fan of the debate around the “Goat” (greatest of all time – the best of all time). It can be Federer, like Djokovic, but also Björn Borg, Rod Laver and many more. Each generation has its great players. The last fifteen years have obviously been marked by the domination of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

With the retirement of Federer, the injuries of Nadal, sometimes of Djokovic… The circuit is precisely looking for new idols. What is your view on the “NextGen”?

I think it’s all up to them! They have the qualities, they have the personalities. But they are still very young. The general public does not yet know them well, and it has been carried by the “Big 3” for years. Now, tennis fans must accept that this generation is passing away, and the next must take over. And among them, we find: Alcaraz, Rune, Sinner…

You have mentioned Carlos Alcaraz several times, in your opinion, can he be the next to win this status?

It’s a difficult task, but I think he’s on his way to achieving it. He has only been on the circuit since 2021, it is only his second full year and he is already world number 1. It’s spectacular. He plays really well, he wins, he takes the pressure. And he is pleasant, smiling, he attracts more and more fans. But I think Holger Rune, with his powerful style of play, his strong personality can also make an impression. And I also appreciate Jannik Sinner, with her cheeky smile. I really like this trio.

The issue of mental health is increasingly present in professional tennis, and sport in general. Do you think this is something that we should take into account even more now?

The younger generation of players suffers from this. Now, in the world we live in, with social networks, everything is going very fast, sometimes too fast. And you have to find the “off” button, and not spend your time on Instagram for example. I think that’s the mistake: that the new generation never puts its mind on “off”.

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