Boris Becker

As the Laureus sporting awards touches down in the capital, Time Out spends ten minutes with tennis great, Boris Becker...

On Abu Dhabi
‘We talked about Dubai before, but I was very impressed with Abu Dhabi the last time I came, for the Formula One in November. I always heard that the big brother of Dubai was Abu Dhabi but I’m not too familiar with the region, and I didn’t know what that meant. I think we’ll understand what it means now. I was very impressed that, in two years, in the middle of the desert on an island, they built up the most modern, most spectacular race circuit. They had a big golf competition recently, and now they have the Laureus Awards, so they’re in with the right events and nobody has complained. It speaks for Abu Dhabi, the hospitality, and the people who rule this country that all those events have been going very smooth. There’s a chance that we’ll come back to Abu Dhabi next year, but first we want to do well this year.’

On the red carpet
‘We’re actually cutting down on [the pizzazz at the Laureus Awards] a little bit. If you were at the awards ten years ago, we had more actors and musicians than athletes. I think we have it the other way around now; but yes, I’m a big fan of Kevin Spacey. You know, big international events like that need a red carpet, they need a bit of glitz and glamour, but it’s still about the athletes and their performances.’

On the Boris Becker Tower in Dubai
‘I think the tower is somewhat built. I haven’t been there yet. I was going to ask you, because you’ve got more news than I have! It was unfortunate what happened with the real estate situation in Dubai. It affected a lot of people, but I think it will recover in time. My tennis academy is still on the agenda. In fact, I’m going to Ras Al Khaimah at the weekend to meet with the local authorities. Again, it’s a different situation in this region than it was five years ago. Everything is a bit slower than it was.’

On his love of poker
‘I’m a part-time poker player – I don’t know if you’ve read something about that. Is there a similarity between tennis and poker? There are a number of similarities because you don’t win with one good ace, or one good hand; you really need to be patient, especially if you want to win a tournament which is over five days, like a tennis tournament. You need a lot of discipline and a very strategic game plan in order to have a chance. You have to really read your opponents and read the table. Patience is the key.’

On escaping an armed heist
‘I was beaten the night before [the heist], so I was already no longer in Berlin, but I obviously knew some of the guys who were on the poker table and it was quite a scene because a couple of people had cameras and it felt like a movie. But it was real life. These guys with ski masks were coming in, and it was quite a big story. It was a surprise, because it was during the day in the Hyatt Hotel in Berlin, on the second floor, surrounded by a lot of people in daylight. You wonder, these days, where those gangsters take the courage and the confidence to go in there and expect to get away. I’m expecting some news pretty soon.’

On Roger Federer
‘He’s the ultimate tennis professional in my eyes. You know, his wife had twins last August; it didn’t matter to him. He played and he went on to play the final at the US Open, where I’m sure his mind was on his family, not on the tennis. For him to keep coming back each year, again winning the Australian Open, it’s just something that has never happened before. He defines what you’re supposed to do as a good athlete, because he breaks every record. He has won the first grand slam and he has not many records still open. He’s never going to admit it, but I’m sure he’s thinking about the grand slam right now. Is it achievable? For Roger it is. A lot depends on the French Open.’

On Andy Murray
‘He’s too good not to win [a grand slam]. But he lost now to Federer, pretty straightforward. It’s never good for a youngster to start with a loss, but he lost to Federer – so that’s his excuse.’

On the one to watch
‘I haven’t been to a junior tournament in a long time, but we mentioned Jockovich and Murray before. Nadal is still very young. Del Potro is very young. They’re all 21, 22, 23, so I think they are the new up and coming players. They happen to be very good already, so I think it’s very difficult for an 18-year-old to break into that. I think we have to wait a couple more years. Who will be the next number one after Federer? It’s going to be a fight between a rejuvenated Nadal, Murray, Jockovich and Del Potro – those four have shown that they’re good enough to win a grand slam. That’s the key: I think you have to win a grand slam in order to have the merit to be called number one. Which of those four will I pick? I won’t (laughs).’

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