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Boris wins Kolkata with charm and nostalgia

Boris wins Kolkata  with charm and nostalgia
Cliched as it may sound, but he did come, see and conquer. That is the summation of Puma Legend Boris Becker’s trip to Kolkata who filled the day–long visit to the city with moments of joy and nostalgia that will be part of the urban lores long after he had flagged off the TSK 25k on Sunday.

Form being at his resplendent best at a pasta cookout at Oberoi Grand, to his brief meeting with the city police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, he was a perfect ambassador, sport and gentleman.

In the midst of this hurricane tour when he flagged off the third edition of the TSK 25K that saw over 10,000 take to the streets forgetting the nippy winter morning, an overwhelmed Becker was often seen capturing the euphoria on his mobile camera. In between, he caught up with the correspondent. 

Boris Becker may not be coaching Novak anymore, but he felt if one can conquer his own demons he can beat any challenger and feels if his former student Novak Djokovic can regain his intensity he has the capacity to challenge Roger Federer’s 17 Grand Slam record.

On his most difficult adversary, Boris said, “It’s most difficult to beat the man in the mirror. He will be your most difficult adversary. He knows you so well. It takes a lot to win over your own fears and demons. You need to win over yourself before you are strong enough to face your challengers.”

And he was confident Novak could do it, “There is no reason why he can’t get back his intensity level. He lost it a little with RafaeI Nadal and Roger Federer not being there. But I am in touch with his camp and I have heard that his intensity level is back to nearing his best. If he can put it out week in week out he can come back to his best. There is no reason why he can’t win the Australian Open again. That wouldn’t surprise me.”

In fact, Becker thinks it is Djokovic who has the best possible chance of challenging Roger Federer’s 17 Grand Slams. “Rafa has 14, he has 12. If Novak can stay fit and healthy he is most likely going to challenge the master. But then again Roger can come back and win a couple. He is such a special player.”

Becker also revealed that he may return to coaching in 2017, “Who said I won’t be coaching in 2017? I can’t get into it half–heartedly. I am not in a rush. You have to close a chapter and then begin another. Would not rule it out. I will be going to Melbourne. Do commentary. Then I will be able to speak to everybody who called me these last few weeks. So there is every possibility that I will be back to coaching next year.”

Coming back to tennis, when asked did he miss characters like John MacEnroe, Jimmy Connors who made great drama on the court, he said, “You cannot blame current players. We live in a time when players are aware of their roles as heroes. Whatever they say even in the heat of the moment gets televised all over the world. Imagine back in the day when MacEnroe had a moment or Connors had a moment they wouldn’t have finished a tournament. But we shouldn’t mix with personalities with strong characters and bad behaviour. One does not mean the other and I believe we have strong personalities in today’s game.”

Asked about his first Wimbledon win, Boris said: “I had a life before July 7, 1985, and a life after that. It was like a second birth; life changed completely and I became a household name. But the bigger accomplishment was coming back to Wimbledon a year later and defend it at the age of 18. Climbing to the top is one thing and staying there is another.”

Becker also spilled out the secret behind his nickname Boom Boom, “Vijay Amritraj was my first doubles partner before I even won the Wimbledon. He was playing with me in Luxembourg and seeing me serve he said, “Boris I have never seen a boy hitting the ball as hard as you. To make it easier I will call you Boom–Boom. That remained stuck to me even today.”

Even as he recounted the importance of running to stay fit, he remembered his rivalry with Ivan Lendl on and off the court, “Lendl tried a number of years to win the Wimbledon. He has won many tournaments and was a great champion. You have to give him credit for that, though I beat him in Wimbledon. He was number one in the world and I was number 2 and for a number of years, we were rivals. Naturally, as a number two, I wanted to be number one and hence our intense rivalry.”

“But many years later we again crossed paths as coaches. Ivan has his way about it. He doesn’t like any nonsense. He has a dry sense of humour. Over the years we have become friends. His work is very focused and concentrated. He has worked (Andy) Murray back to number one. You know what I am talking about. I have great respect for him.”

Asked though he had his moments of greatness with players like Ivan Lendl, Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras, is there anyone he would have loved to play against, “They were great characters and fabulous players. But yes I would have loved to play Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at the center court in Wimbledon.”

While breaking into a banter on why the run had to start so early on a chilly winter morning, Boris recounted his relations with the city and Indian tennis players, “This is my first visit to Kolkata. I am overwhelmed by the love showered on me. This is certainly not my last I promise. I am in touch with Leander (Paes), (Mahesh) Bhupati. But in fact, the player I see most is Sania Mirza. She is the number one in doubles. We see each other in the final weekend when we have this good luck routine. Every time we had lunch together, she with her doubles partner and me with my team, we would go on to win. She insisted that in all the important tournaments we had lunch together as I bring her luck and she brings me luck. It’s true.”  

On his new limited edition shoe, the first German to win the Wimbledon said, “I am very proud that they have got a shoe in my name–Boris Becker limited edition. As a little boy, I wanted to have the shoes of the stars I admired. I could never imagine 30 years ago that I would have my name on a shoe.”

On who that star would be, the six–time grand slam champion signed off, “I would have loved to have worn a Bjorn Borg tennis shoes as a little boy. I came to tennis because of him.”
Arindam Basu

Arindam Basu

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