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December 5, 1996

Boris Becker


Q. Boris, you have talked about your play being in the stratosphere. If you were to pinpoint one reason, could it be the serve, I know you've always had a great serve, but could it be better than ever, and why would it be?

BORIS BECKER: Obviously my serve is an important part of my game. But, unfortunately, you cannot win by only serving. You have to return. You have to volley. These days the returns are coming back. It's just one part of the game. Plus, it's important when you serve well. It's easy to serve well at 40-Love. You have to serve well on breakpoint down, deuce, first or second serve. The secret behind it, unfortunately, is work. It's not like magic advice somebody gave me. My coach and me go down on the practice court and we work very hard tennis-wise. Also there's off-court training. We go a lot on the track, go in the gym a lot, lift weights. Unfortunately, there's no other way of becoming very good but working your behind off.

Q. You didn't seem to appreciate much the joke, the little joke, that had Hlasek did?

BORIS BECKER: Of course I did.

Q. You didn't smile.

BORIS BECKER: I'm smile with my eyes. I don't have to open my mouth.

Q. You lost that game. You lost four points in a row after that. Do you remember?

BORIS BECKER: Yes, I did. Something strange happened (laughter). I really couldn't put a serve on the court anymore. That was it.

Q. Boris, just supposing Tim Henman was to win the match coming up now, would you view that with anxiety, the prospect of playing him?

BORIS BECKER: Almost as much as anybody in the draw. Once you get to the stage of playing a semifinal, whoever you are going to play has won two tough matches already, they must be in good form. At that stage, the name doesn't matter anymore. It comes down to who is better on the court. If it's Tim, it's going to be a tough match. They have to play first. I expect whoever wants to play me on Saturday, I'll be ready.

Q. There were times in the Grand Slam Cup when you didn't perform that well. I remember when you lost to Ferreira; you lost to Ivanisevic; with Martin last year, so-so. Do you feel at your best shape this year for the Grand Slam Cup compared to the other years, to the previous years?

BORIS BECKER: I seem to be playing every year a bit better. I started badly, losing first round. I seem to go one more round each year, including my form seems to be better each year with each round. You know, I don't want to take that as an omen. My goal before this tournament was to win the tournament, not to, you know, qualify for the finals. I'm usually taking it step by step. I'm not looking further than the semifinal. Form-wise, yes, I'm playing my best tennis right now in my career, the past two months already. You know, it's just continued from Vienna to Stuttgart to Hannover, I really haven't had a bad match where I could say, "That was terrible," apart from Bercy maybe of the -- but I had other problems there. I'm just on a very good track right now. Unfortunately the year has to finish, you know. I missed a big part in the spring. I missed a big part in summer. Now I'm starting to be on top of my game. Everybody goes to ski holidays now, unfortunately.

Q. We don't wish you anymore injuries, but do you think it is because you couldn't play for two or three months that you played better, you're more fresh at the end of the year?

BORIS BECKER: Probably, yes. But on the other hand, I gave everybody a big margin, so I've been catching up ever since. You know, like many, many things, you have always two sides. The good side is now that I'm very fresh and eager to play, to train, just to be a professional tennis player.

Q. Boris, you're constantly referred to as a wild Municher. Can you explain to us why you choose Munich to live in Germany?

BORIS BECKER: How many days are you in town? If you ask me that question, you must have come this morning. It's a beautiful town. I have many friends here. It's a long story. I want to make it short. A few years ago it was just a place I choose to live. My wife was living here. My son is born here. Very good practice facilities. You know, it's very beautiful town to live in.

Q. Boris, do you think that the leaving of Jakob is a loss to the Tour? What did you think of him playing?

BORIS BECKER: I think players who have played so long, so successfully as Jakob, they bring very much to the game. He has won a Grand Slam in doubles and he has won many singles titles. He qualified for the ATP Finals or the Masters, whichever you want to call it. He has been so long, so good in the game. It's a big loss for the tennis community. You know, he's a very nice guy. I think he gets along with most players. Everybody has to know when to stop. You know, he felt that he was ready to retire. I don't know why, for whatever reason he choose to. It's sad that somebody like that goes out.

Q. Do you remember that first match you played with him in Basel when you lost?

BORIS BECKER: Yes. It was in 1984, I suppose. I got a wildcard in that tournament, I remember. I was playing the local hero then. Myself, I was 16 years old, so it was like a big shock coming to a main event and everybody was cheering against me. You know, he beat me then. But, I got him back.

Q. Boris, in Hannover you beat Krajicek, now Washington and Henman are here, which has to bring memories back of Wimbledon, which you had a shot of winning, before the wrist. How much does that bother you, with all these guys dropping out, you had a shot, then that happened?

BORIS BECKER: You know, Wimbledon, I have a special relationship with Wimbledon. You know, I've been in the final seven years. I won it a few times. Reached the semis twice. Once I come to Wimbledon, the draw doesn't matter. I feel like I'm able to beat almost everybody there, and I did. Everybody talked about how easy the draw was, how easy my way could have been. I never look at a draw and say it's easy. You know, I respect every player. I lost too many matches that I go in any tournament without any fear. You know, for me, the tragedy was more that I was injured for so long, not that I could have won Wimbledon. I was only in the third round. The year before, I supposedly had a terrible draw and I couldn't make it. I made it to the final as well, so the draw does not make any difference to me in Wimbledon.

Q. You mentioned that unfortunately the year ends now. You're talking about your top shape. Does it also mean that your arm is so strong now that it wouldn't need a break before you tackled the new year, very strenuous year?

BORIS BECKER: As I repeated once or twice, unfortunately, pain is normal in professional sport. And, sometimes it's the wrist. Sometimes it's the knee, or the back. After 12 years as a professional player, this would appear normal. But, it doesn't really hamper my play. It's a pity, I mention, because I found my shape now. I have for a couple of months. I feel extremely well. And, my tennis is very good. It's always a pity that you have a forced break at a point in time where you wouldn't want to have one. I would like to carry on playing big tournaments. But, this is how it is. And, I'm going to enjoy my holiday. But, it would be better for me personally to play Wimbledon next week.

Q. Boris, you said yourself that these two months have been the best of your career. Unfortunately there's no further tournament in this year. You can't carry on. But Christmas is coming ahead. Now, if you could practice a few Christmas songs with your son, how are you going to spend Christmas?

BORIS BECKER: Look, this is a family season. This should be respected by the public.

Q. If I may, another question. Something that strikes me is your excellent return and your play is so good from the baseline. You showed this in Stuttgart and you carried on. You're considering the future now. Would you think even on clay, given these facts, you might be able to do the big thing on clay?

BORIS BECKER: I have had the opportunities in the past, and I hope I'm going to have them in the future. Of course, I do not only like my serve. I also like the baselines, the long rallies. I hope this is going to help me next year during the claycourt season because rallies tend to be long from the baseline. But all this is mere speculation about the future. What I'm interested in now is not the claycourt. I want to win two other matches here in Munich.

Q. So if you want, you are the only big shot in this tournament staying after the disappointment about Agassi and Krajicek. Do you feel sort of a responsibility towards your manager, who is the tournament's chairman, to get to the final?

BORIS BECKER: Well, I think that considering my past, you can see that I'm always well prepared when I enter a tournament. There are not many matches where I would walk onto the court without serious preparation. This is not an exception here in Munich. This is the simply the way I see my job. I try to be a professional. The people pay a lot of money to watch us playing. There are many spectators at home - television - and they expect the utmost of each and everyone. I can only say for myself that I try to do this, whether it's Munich or someplace in America or Japan. This is my professional attitude, the way I prepare, and, yes, I like my job, my profession, and I don't think it's hard to implement this on the court.

Q. Boris, you mentioned a minute ago the crowd, you have played your best tennis for the two months --

BORIS BECKER: No, this is my attitude. I tried to play my best.

Q. For two months you have had this super shape, yet the hall was not full today. What would you say about this?

ROBERT LUBENOFF: It was fully booked.

BORIS BECKER: I saw a lot of people in the hall, but I didn't really count. I didn't see any empty seat because it may be under the ceiling. I can't really follow each and every seat to see whether everybody is in. I played fast, so maybe some people were in a traffic jam, came in time for the second match. You know, for me personally, I don't think it really matters. Well, I feel great if I feel that the crowd accepts my play and come as they have done for a couple days. Whether each and every spectator was in the hall, I can't tell you.

End of FastScripts…

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