Boris Becker was a man in a hurry when he took Wimbledon by storm to win the title as a precocious 17-year-old in 1985 but says today’s game requires a little more patience.
Alexander Zverev, Germany’s latest tennis hope and the man many predict can go some way to emulating Becker’s feats, found that out last year when, despite rising to fourth in the world rankings, the grand slams proved frustrating.
A third-round defeat in the Australian Open by Rafael Nadal in five sets was nothing to be ashamed of and he also made the second week of Wimbledon, reaching the last 16.
But at the US Open, when he was being lauded a potential champion, he buckled under the expectations and blew out in the second round to fellow youngster Borna Coric, playing what he described as his worst match of the season.
He will arrive in Melbourne as the fourth seed for the Australian Open, but Becker has urged caution, saying Zverev needs to be ready to play the long game.
“For him the important thing is to get comfortably into the second week, get to the quarter-final and feel good about his game and then he will be very dangerous,” Becker, who will be working as an analyst for Eurosport during the tournament, told Reuters by telephone.
“The tough thing when you are young is that you don’t have any patience. You want it to happen yesterday. Playing a grand slam over two weeks is tough for a 20-year-old to keep the concentration and keep the rhythm going.
“It’s easier when you’re older and you have done it before. When you are 19 or 20 you want to play the final tomorrow!
“But it’s a two-week process.”
Becker, who stormed past Kevin Curren to win Wimbledon in 1985 and went on to win a total of six grand slams and top the rankings, is confident that Zverev will win a major.
“He has all the tools,” he said. “He has shown last year when he won two Masters beating Novak (Djokovic) in one final and Roger (Federer) in another, which is as hard as it gets,” Becker said.
“He has the quality to do it over a week, but needs a bit more experience to do it over two weeks.”
Zverev, who could face his older brother Mischa in the third round, is one of a number of rising stars who are trying to dislodge one of the greatest men’s generations ever.
Becker believes Australian Nick Kyrgios is beginning to show the mentality to have a deep run in Melbourne.
Blocking the way though is the 36-year-old reigning champion Federer who shows no sign of being ready to hand over power.
“He must be celebrated and enjoyed because we’ll never see a player like him again, at least not in my lifetime,” Becker said.
“What I hope is that he, Nadal, Djokovic and (Andy) Murray are all still at the top when the 20 somethings take over, not after they have declined.”