Boris Becker Questions if Nadal and Djokovic Could Have Survived In Other Eras But Lauds Fed

“The reason why Federer is still successful at the age of 31 is because he has got a good technique. He can play from the baseline and when he has to, he can also come to the net more often than other players,” Boris Becker was quoted recently by the Times of India.

“I don’t think (Rafael) Nadal or (Novak) Djokovic would have been so successful in the era of serve and volley but Federer could have played.”

Would you agree Federer is all around superior to Rafa and Djokovic, or did Rafa and Djokovic construct their baseline-oriented style games to fit the times?

Becker obviously prefers the Federer style but it’s hard to imagine Nadal and Djokovic not rising to the top no matter what era they played in.

(Photo by Andy Kentla)


  • BoDu · November 20, 2012 at 11:17 am

  • Steve · November 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Not sure “could have survived” and “would have been so successful” are the same thing. :-) I’m sure Boris was thinking of fast, grass court tennis of old.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 20, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    BoDu that’s a great catch…

    “We always have close matches, especially the last 10, 15 matches have been very back and forth,” Federer said of Djokovic. “We both play aggressive tennis. We’re natural attackers. That makes for exciting tennis.”

    The what some people call “defense” of Djokovic is actually like a jab of a boxer. It’s the prelude to the big strike. Great comment BoDu, welcome to the site.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Becker is obviously a big Federer supporter Steve. A lot of the old guard love Federer and haven’t fully warmed to Rafa or Djokovic. Remember Sampras said a few years ago a knock on Djok’s personality, “You call that personality.” But they have since warmed to each other as Djok always cites Sampras as his #1 hero. Emerson said Djokovic should try to emulate Federer more which was unfair, Djokovic should continue to be only himself, no one else. There are other examples. Seems Becker is grasping at a straw to prop Federer back up in the public’s mind after finising #2 this year and 3 last year.

  • Mitch · November 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Becker also said earlier this month that he’s not sure Federer is the greatest of all time, so he’s clearly not a Fed fanatic.

  • Sidney · November 20, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Normal for Becker and other players from past eras to compare themselves to current top dogs, and compare the dominant brand of tennis back then to today’s brand of tennis.

    I for one am happy that the days of the serve and volley is past us (fingers crossed!). Those were pretty boring tennis matches. Serve, return, put away, done. No excitement to a single point. It was very predictable.

    Today’s tennis is much better, IMO. Lots of uncertainty and suspense in most points played. Mix in the occasional ace here and there, and it’s perfect. Record or near-record crowds at the big tourneys in the last few years show we all love it, though some people may not admit it (especially when their faves lose once in a while.) :)

  • loreley · November 21, 2012 at 6:38 am

    Serve & volley isn’t the better tennis. It can be boring too. It depends who’s playing it.

    Boris loves only himself ;)

    But he is right about Djokovic & Nadal. He forgot to tell about Murray’s chances in a serve & volley era. But since he’s working for BBC & Sky he won’t say anything bad about him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 21, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Loreley, Boom Becker loved Sampras too, I think he showed it after their famous five set final in the Tour Finals in Hamburg or Frankfurt. He had big respect for Pete. And he clearly adores Federer too.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 21, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Agree Sidney I love it today. Big points come down to the player who takes the risk or is able ot throw in a curve ball or hit the unexpected or creative shot. Repeated serve and volley was kind of frustrating for fans, same thing over and over, you would get annoyed at the returner for making weak returns that were easily volleyed for winners. Never feel frustration watching today, more in awe of these players for how they play and the cojones they show in the pressure situations. Like Djokovic’s forehand winner on Fed at US Open down the MPs was far more memorable and impressive than any ace or serve and volley in a similar critical situation. Tennis is just fantastic right now, it’s never been better IMO.

  • Dan Markowitz · November 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I disagree that this is the best time for tennis. It was clearly in the mid to late 70’s when you had Borg, Connors, Vilas and then McEnroe all playing very watchable and sizzling tennis. While Fed, Nadal, Djoko and Murray are better athletes, bigger and faster than that foursome of yesteryear, those guys had more heart, personality and flair than today’s Big 4.

    But Sidney or Scoop, watch McEnroe’s five-set semis against Connors in 1984. I’ve seen a lot of great matches and tennis, but I never saw anything compared to the quality of tennis in that match. Both guys were razor-thin, throwing themselves at the ball. They both used rackets where you couldn’t hold the ball on the strings as long as you can now and just play power baseline tennis. The rallies were long at times, but the ball rarely cleared the net by more than a foot. The court was very fast, it seemed like an ice-skating rink, and both players moved with a balletic magnificence.

    That Mac and Connors both approached the net, that Mac’s hands at the net were incredibly deft, that the emotions were raw between both players (Mac beat Connors in every match they played, 6 or 7, in 1984 and he’d cleaned his clock at Wimbledon just two months prior). But Connors came back and won the fourth set, and there was just a different, much more exciting dynamic involved in that match than any played today.

    I was in the stadium for the 2011 Djokovic-Nadal US Open Finals, and while it was enjoyable and the tennis great, it did not compare to that 1984 match and many others of that era.

  • Steve · November 21, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    The old guard loves Nadal. I’ve heard Borg, Edberg & Mac compliment him.

    BB was referring to serve & volley not baseline attack but I’d have to read the whole interview in context. Nadal’s touch at net and volley skills are now top notch due to his doubles play.

    Djok & Nadal are obviously tremendous athletes and could have learned any style of play but would they have won Wimbledon back in the day??? I’d say in a Borg-like style of the late 70s, yes. Facing Sampras? Maybe not.

  • Steve · November 21, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I still think Nadal was injured during that 2011 US Open Final. He was serving very slowly but had been really cranking his serves before that match. I suspect an abdominal injury but who knows. Injuries are part the game and unfortunately it was as exciting as the semi-finals.

  • Steve · November 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I have so many memories of Becker being down break point and slowly walking back to serve, bouncing the ball in his enigmatic way. The whole stadium knew he was going to serve down the T. The commentators, the ball kids, the causal fans, members of someone’s entourage. EVERYONE. But there was nothing the other player could do. Rocking with the shoulder down, the toss, the deep knee bend. ACE.

    I’d like to see a stat of how many times he did this. For some of us this was as exciting as todays’ tennis just different.

  • Sidney · November 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    I watched some tennis back in the 70’s, and it was so boring. JohnnyMac-Jimmy matches I found were really boring. I think the only thing that made them so well-known was not the brand of tennis they played, but their own personalities, the drama between them that went out in the papers every time they played.

    The top players today are quite a bit more civil to each other. And yet people flock to see their matches. It is the tennis they want to see, not what they would rather do to each other at the end of the tennis match. :)

  • Gans · November 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    From having heard Becker’s commentary in the past I wouldn’t say he is a Fed fan. Boris is ‘Bor’ing, but does give some interesting insights at times. I do think Fed would have been successful in any era against anyone not named Nadal!

    Since he has lost way too many slams to Nadal, I wouldn’t call him the GOAT. How could he be the best if he has such a lop-sided record against his nemesis even though he is 5 years older.

    I would call Federer the most versatile player. Also, I agree with Boris that Fed simply has better technique and is more efficient than Nadal or Djokovic. That is easy to see, isn’t it?


  • Dan markowitz · November 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm


    There was a lot more going on in Mac-Connors matches than just the sharp nerve that ran down the center of their matches. Yes, there was real antipathy between the two, but they also could handle those sticks. In the U.S. tennis is not nearly as popular now as it was back when Mac and Jimbo battled. Most people attend tennis events now for the spectacle than the tennis. Back in the 70’s, fueled by Mac and Jimmy, you had many other top Americans. College tennis mattered.

    Now certainly the sport’s become a lot more international, and that’s great, but look at the stars of the game today in the U.S., they’re so vanilla. Mac, Connors, Vitas, these guys were rock stars. Querrey, Isner, Harrison, these guys in comparison matter so less more. Mac and Connors were on the cover is SI, now tennis only matters on web sites and on the Tennis Channel. Mac and Connors played matches that mattered.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Borg was fun to watch because he was the best and he was so popular but his court demeanor and personality were on the boring side. I enjoy the fist pumps and shouts of Come on or Vamooooos! by Fed, Nadal and Djokovic along with their athletic prowesses. Borg was a fiery competitor as a kid but his father threateded to take his racquet away forever if he didn’t behave properly, of course Borg followed this rule and the rest is history. But I like the fire, passion and use of emotional adrenaline on the court, like Hewitt, Ilie, Rios, Stepanek, Chakvetadze, Kuerten, etc. McEnroe and Borg, while the points were flashy and interesting, were not the most entertaining competitors as far as emotions and crowd interaction during the match, though Mac’s interaction with officials surely made up for this void. Tennis today is the most exciting and interesting it has ever been IMO.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Steve, I think everybody in the tennis world adores and respects Fed and Nadal, how can you not? A few fans can be a little silly and unreasonable against Fed or Rafa but overall, we will be lucky to have two finer champions and examples than Fed and Rafa. All the tennis greats of the past adore and appreciate them as far as I know. Even if Noah is critical of Nadal and the Spanish armada with his PED accusations/insinuations, I’m sure he respects Nadal as a champion and fair competitor on the court.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Remember Agassi observed Becker used to tip his serve direction with his tongue, a few seconds before he’d start his motion? That was funny stuff from Agassi.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Sidney good point, the tennis quality is so high today that most fans don’t need the personal angles/grudges. But despite the graciousness shown to the public, sometimes I wonder if Fed and Djokovic really are so friendly and respectful as they show, or is there still a simmering rivalry and competitive dislike carefully concealed beneath the surface? Whatever it is, it’s always a thrill to see them go at it, all their matches are classics. More competitive and interesting than Fed vs. Rafa as Rafa dominated.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Can’t argue that Gans, and also Fed has fallen short of coming close to winning a Davis Cup. Most versatile and most aesthetically pleasing great champion but the losing record to Nadal is a significant hole in his legacy. Gans I am a little disappointed that you haven’t contributed one of your fine tennis related poems as of late )

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Well Dan, Djokovic was on 60 Minutes that was a big deal. Mac and Connors was a fascinating rivalry, more so now for me as I didn’t understand it back then as a kid. But seeing that match where Connors goes over and orders Mac to behave himself on the court and admonishing him with a pointed figer was as good as it gets if you like to see grudges and bad blood on the court during the heat of battle which I love to see ) Tennis is a violent sport, “a fistfight without the fists” said Tracy Austin, and it always adds excitement to the theater to see the players show their fire.

  • Dan markowitz · November 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Today’s players are too civilized. Even the Americans are so reserved. Our only hope is Harrison, who’s got an ornery nature, but his game isn’t as loud as his outbursts.

    Call me vulgur, but I liked it when players were insane like Mac, Jimbo and Gilbert. Look, most tennis players are not rambunctious types. They’re loners, iconoclasts, but sport is based on interaction and conflict. The stakes are raised when players show their emotions and even engage each other. Fish for the most part is civil, but he can get ornery. I like Llodra because he’s got a lot of cuss in him. It’d be nice to see Delpo drop his racket, jump the net and take Djoko by the neck. Let’s see a little hijinks.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 23, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Delpo is a gentle giant and a good sport and will never get down and dirty, it’s completely against his nature. It’s like hoping Stefan Edberg or Richard Gasquet turn into Daniel Koellerer. Not gonna happen. Oh wait, Todd Martin once let out his wild side in that match vs. Moya at US Open, so you never know.

  • Sidney · November 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    I think we’re saying the same thing. Just from different perspectives, and with different conclusions. To each his own. We can argue about what’s boring and what is not boring tennis, what is better tennis. We have our own preferences.

    I think we agree that personalities were very much part of the game back in the 70s-80s, and now not as much. Today, the game of tennis is more the focus, not the personalities of players. I like it this way a lot better.

    I wish we have at least an American at the top level as it would have helped the sport in my home country! We have been spoiled for several decades, it doesn’t seem fair to have this lull for this long (since Roger started playing, really.)

    But I don’t normally get my nationalistic pride in the way of the larger scheme of things. I love tennis. As long as it is successful and drawing huge crowds, I don’t mind it if the crowds are in Australia, in Europe, in Asia, or somewhere else, or if the top players are from Serbia, Spain, Switzerland (all start with ‘S’, hmmmm.) or Scotland.

    The day will come when an American is at the top of the sport again. Hopefully in my lifetime. :)

  • Dan Markowitz · November 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm


    Personalities are only interesting if the talent is scintillating too. McEnroe and Connors were two of the greatest ever to play the sport. I have a bias toward Mac because his tennis was both athletic and graceful. He combined his skills were a quick mind, a lacerating tongue and an indomitable (some would say, boorish) competitive spirit.

    I like contrasts in tennis matches. I thought the Stepanek-Almagro Davis Cup final tie was an interesting match because Stepanek came to the net often. I’m not a big fan of Djokovic-Nadal or Djokovic-Murray matches. They play too much the same game and it is almost exclusively from the baseline.

    Look, when you have a guy like David Ferrer as the No. 5 player in the world, something’s wrong with the sport. No disrespect to Ferrer, but he’s 31, doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard, and he’s one of the top players in the world? Show me a precedent for Ferrer? There isn’t any and that means the game has turned, IMO, into too much of a baseline, defensive game.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 24, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Sidney the best young talent coming up his from Florida, Stefan Kozlov, he is around 14 and has already hit with Federer. Coached by his dad Andrei who was a former pro from Russia. Remember the name Stefan Kozlov.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 24, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Dan Ferrer is not an indication that anything is wrong with the sport, he is a great player, never misses and like tennis coaching insiders said, it’s impossible to win a point off him. He’s similar to Chang who was #2 in the world in a tough era. Similar to Davydenko. Nothing wrong with the sport, Ferrer is just an amazing player, very smart and consistent, super quick, and mentally tough. Ferrer must be a nightmare to play, he never misses.



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