Becker envious of London eight
Originally published on: 04/11/13 00:00
The former world No.1 played in 11 season-ending championships, including five years at the world-famous Madison Square Garden, but admits he would have loved the opportunity to play in the London venue.
“I would have loved to play at The O2,” Becker told tennishead. “It’s just the perfect arena for a tournament like the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. In the 80s the sporting church was Madison Square Garden – you had the Knicks playing basketball there, the Rangers playing ice hockey and lots of famous music stars performing.
“If you performed at Madison Square Garden you had really made it in your profession and I think that applies to The O2 now.”
His first appearance at the then Masters came at the end of the 1985 season following his maiden Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon at the tender age of 17.
Back then, it was not an eight-man finale but 16; played in the standard knockout format. By 1986, the round-robin format had been introduced, a format which has endured for nearly 30 years through multiple venues and frequent rebranding of the event.
“My first one was in 1985 at Madison Square Gardens the top 16 qualified and it was a knockout system,” Becker told tennishead. “I didn’t like this format so much because you have to play all year long to qualify and you have a bad day or a bad draw and you lose and your season is over after only one match.
“I think the round robin format is more fair, both for the players and the fans, who have an opportunity to see their favourite players play three matches. For the players there is a bit less pressure from the first match and OK after three matches then if you are not good enough you go home.”
From the event’s debut in Tokyo in 1970, the year-end championship has travelled thousands of miles via Paris, Boston, Melbourne, Stockholm, Houston, Sydney and Shanghai.
But despite playing on home soil between 1990 and his final appearance in 1996, in Frankfurt and Hannover. Becker believes two venues have stood out above all others.
“There are two sites over the last 25 years that really stand out – Madison Square Garden and The O2,” he said.
“I would like to see it stay in London for as long as possible. Nothing is forever. It depends on the players. At the moment [almost] everybody comes from Europe – you have a guy called Andy Murray who is very popular and that helps.
“Then you have Nadal from Spain, Federer from Switzerland and Djokovic from Serbia so everybody is from that part of the world anyway. These boys travel all the time and the last couple of events in the season are in Europe so to ask them to make another trip to Rio de Janeiro or Melbourne it’s a bit too much.
"It depends on the players. You want the dream final – a tournament director is not responsible for that. Last year we had Federer v Djokovic – you couldn’t have asked for a better final – this year everybody wants to see a Djokovic v Nadal final. I think that would be the icing on the cake.
“Here they put on a great show and I can’t see much room for improvement. With over 250,000 through the doors every year – the figures don’t lie. It is not broken, so don’t fix it – let it run its course for many years to come.”
Boris Becker is an ambassador of Barclays, title sponsor of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. For more information check out facebook.com/BarclaysTennis