With eyes screwed into intense concentration like when he used to boom and serve, Boris Becker walked up the stairs of the Yashwantrao Chavan Centre at Nariman Point. It had been just a year since his compatriot Seffi Graf had addressed a contingent of students of a South Mumbai school. Becker was to do the same, suggesting a reason for his concentrated look.
Yet when the speech started, the 48-year-old brought back memories of the training sessions he spent with Graf to lighten the mood. “He talked about how the coach threatened to make the worst boy practice with girls if he didn’t improve. Becker said he was often the worst and had to play Graf quite regularly,” narrated a student present at the closed event.
The six-time Grand Slam champion, who stormed onto the professional circuit by winning the 1985 Wimbledon title as a 17-year-old, spoke briefly about his personal experiences and the difficulties he faced as a player. The topic soon touched the transitional phase he went through when he started coaching.
“Becker said that there was a time he’d walk into the locker room, peel off his tracksuit and wear his tennis shorts and the other gear. It came as a shock to him when instead of going to the locker room, he’d be directed to the players’ box,” says another member in the audience.
Given that a majority of the crowd present were students, some of whom carried tennis racquets with the hope of getting them autographed, there was a message from Becker about the importance of academics in all future pursuits. With that he brought about a parallel with his world number 1, Novak Djokovic.
“He said that education is our backwork, just as the diet is for Novak,” mentions a standard XI student. “He said that the way Novak looks after his diet helps him stay in better shape on court. And that’s how Novak can perform well,” the student added.