"The jury is still out on which of the top tennis stars will suffer most", Laureus legend Boris Beck

While beating the coronavirus pandemic is the global priority, the absence of sport is being more 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, 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 Andy Murray. “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 more.
“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 Simone 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. “More than 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.

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