Boris Becker on Covid-19s impact on tennis and the importance of Sport for Good
Tennis legend and Laureus Academy Member Boris Becker has warned that his sport is in crisis and has urged governing bodies to come together to find a solution.
The six-time Grand Slam winner, in an interview on Laureus.com, said: “Since March there hasn't been any official tennis, so I call this a chance, a unique situation, for all governing bodies to come together.”
He also said he did not think it would be wise for the US Open to go ahead in August. “It’s the only Grand Slam still standing, but New York was pretty much the worst city hit by the virus a couple of weeks ago. I don't think it would be wise to have a tournament there,” he added.
Becker is the latest big name in tennis to welcome the comments by respected Swiss star Roger Federer, who has raised the possibility that the ATP, the governing body of the men’s game, should link up with the WTA, the women’s organisation.
Becker, who is in lockdown in his London home, and facing up to missing his first Wimbledon as player and commentator since 1982, added: “I think we are having a moment in crisis in tennis. Apart from, let's say, from the top ten, the top 50 and maybe the top 75 men and women, the rest of the professional players need their weekly pay check, they need their prize money. The fact is they can’t play, they can't even go to a club and give lessons because of social distancing.
“We have to ask ourselves whether tennis is good enough to give jobs for a thousand people. Until the crisis started, the quick answer was yes, but I'm sure a lot of smaller tournaments that couldn't take place are struggling to come back financially, they've lost a lot of money by not hosting. So it’s also a question of time.
“Roger Federer started the ball rolling with his splendid idea of joining forces and I think Nadal agrees. Not every top guy agrees, that's fine, but I think Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have a strong following. For Federer to suggest that, speaks for his intelligence and also that he truly cares about the game.
“Just think of the equal prize money we have in the majors. You know men and women earn the same which I don’t think is happening in every sport. We are always progressive about going with the times, with equal rights, certainly on the tennis court.
“So a joint organisation – he meant ATP and WTA - would be the next step. It's a big step. He suggested maybe having joint tournaments. We already have a few. In the US in Miami, you have men and women participating around the same time.
“The other ones, talking about the Masters series, are not there yet, but obviously would, in my opinion, be a step in the right direction. Once we get out of the tunnel, the new normal will be different. We still lie in a position to control the future if we get together and work together.”
Becker played as a junior at Wimbledon in 1982, then won in 1985, 1986 and 1989. He said: “Wimbledon has been very much my summer for 35 or 40 years. It’s going to leave a big, empty void.”
He continues to be a keen supporter of Laureus Sport for Good. “I am a proud founding member of Laureus, and have been for more than 20 years. I'm surrounded by my idols when I grew up and we never forget where we came from. We all love our children, they are our future and more strongly than ever at this time we believe that sport has the power to change the world.
“Life as we know it has changed since the coronavirus lockdown happened, since this pandemic reached our shores. I have lived in the United Kingdom for a long time, and this is frightening. I’ve never seen a situation like this before. We live in a tough world right now. More than ever I am committed to the work of Laureus and I do whatever I can.”
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 six 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.