While beating the coronavirus pandemic is the global
priority, the absence of sport is being particularly keenly felt.
Next week the French
Open should have been taking place at Roland Garros, but it has been postponed
to a later date.
And according to tennis legend and Laureus Academy member Boris Becker, the biggest loser from that could be Rafael Nadal in the
race to become the winner of most career Grand Slam titles.
Currently Roger Federer has 20, Nadal has 19 and Novak
Djokovic has 17, and, in an interview with Laureus.com, Becker says “The jury
is out on which of the top tennis stars will suffer most from what could become
a lost year.
“Nadal has won the French 12 times. He had a chance to
equal Roger Federer there and that's something everybody probably thought would
be possible, but now that's not happening.
“Equally, just by pressure logic, the older players
will suffer because they have a lost year. We know Roger Federer defies the
odds, but he will be reaching 40 next year and he won't get any younger.”
With the current continuing uncertainty about how long
coronavirus restrictions will last around the world, Becker wonders whether it
could be that the Australian Open in January might end up becoming the next
Grand Slam actually to be played.
“If it is, then maybe 2021 will see the breakthrough
of the young guns because they will be a year more experienced, and the older
players are another year older,” he says.
“The big three [Federer, Nadal and Djokovic] have won
everything multiple times. I think it's for the younger generation to step up.
The best one of the rest for the last two years has been Dominic Thiem. He's
made three major finals and played beautifully against Novak, losing in five
sets in Melbourne.
“I like Stefanos Tsitsipas very much, the way he
presents himself on and off the court and the way he plays the game. From a
German point of view I like Sascha Zverev a lot, you know he was in the
semi-final in Melbourne and he he's still only 22, so he has a long career
ahead of him. There are other younger players that are fascinating.
“I would like to see the top three still at their
best, and being beaten. I don't want the young generation to take over when the
top three won't play anymore or are actually too old,” says Becker.
“I want to
see a final between a 22-year-old and a 33-year-old. That would be the best
thing in tennis. So guys, step up to the plate.”
Interestingly, if there is one of the old guard for
whom Becker thinks this closedown has come at the right time, it’s Scotland’s
“I think Murray will benefit because he isn’t fully fit yet after
his hip surgery and the long break is actually good for his recovery, so he's
not losing ground.”
In the women’s game, all eyes are on Serena Williams
who, on 23 Grand Slam wins, is just one behind Margaret Court.
Becker says: “Can Serena equal Margaret Court? She is
past 30 and she’s become a proud mother. I'm sure she would love to play the US
Open this year. They call her the Greatest of all Time on the women's circuit,
and she certainly deserves the title.
“Me, being German, I still think of Steffi Graf as our
queen, but Serena is certainly, certainly the greatest. Margaret Court is the
most successful. Having said that, back in the day they played three of the
four majors on grass, so it was easier if you're comfortable on grass to win
“I'm sure Serena wants to reach 24, I think that's the
reason she's playing. You know, she’s a role model for all the mothers out
there who are professionally involved in sport. As long as she wants to play, I
think she can win. So as long as Serena is good enough to reach a final, she's
good enough to win.
“Having said that, the young generation won't sleep.
You know once you are in a final you're not playing the name, you're playing
the title. That was Bianca Andreescu at the US Open final or Simona Halep in
Wimbledon last year. They didn’t play the name.”
In his role as a Laureus Academy Member, Becker
believes in the work Laureus
Sport for Good undertakes, using
sport to help young people overcome violence, discrimination and disadvantage.
In Laureus’ 20th anniversary year, he says the role of sport in
society is more important than ever.
“Children are our future,” says Becker.
ever, we [Academy Members] strongly believe that sport has the power to change
the world. Whether that's in projects in Africa, or whether that's talking to
your own children about the importance of sport and a good lifestyle, it is
more important than ever.”
Over the last 20 years, Laureus Sport for Good has
raised more than €150m for the Sport for Development sector, reaching and
helping change the lives of almost 6 million children and young people. Laureus
Sport for Good currently supports more than 200 programmes in over 40 countries
that use the power of sport to transform lives.