Tennis Prose



When Becker Alleged Nike Pressures Grand Slams

German tennis star Boris Becker, defeated by Pete Sampras in the 1995 Wimbledon final, criticized Andre Agassi and Nike over what he believes to be special privileges and preferential treatment. Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion, was annoyed that he played only once on Center Court prior to the semifinals while Agassi played five of his six matches on the main stadium court. ‘It cannot just be a coincidence that it is always Agassi at 2 p.m. on Center Court,’ Becker said. ‘It would be interesting to see how he played if he was always on Court 2 at noon.’

Becker implied that Agassi’s sponsor, Nike, was somehow involved in how the draw is set. ‘I think Nike has something to do with this,’ Becker speculated. ‘The other companies just can’t compete with them.’ (Agassi has a 10-year, $100 million contract with the athletic apparel giant.) ‘The company puts pressure on the tournaments and money plays a big role,’ Becker revealed. ‘You saw it at the French Open and I am worried that it will happen at the U.S. Open. I fear it will be like playing in a Nike house.’

Wimbledon officials adamantly denied that Nike or any other companies have any influence over scheduling. Officials noted that Pete Sampras played on Center Court just once before the semifinals.

Becker’s remarks after Wimbledon were rehashed two months later at 1995 US Open…

Q. After Wimbledon, you had some candid remarks to make about Andre Agassi; that I think you referred to may not be precisely the words “special treatment” —

BORIS BECKER: I wasn’t talking about him personally. It was about —

Q. I understand.

BORIS BECKER: — his company more than about him.

Q. Just before the Open, Andre, I think made it clear that those remarks have not sat well with him and wondered whether or not you regretted making them or whether you two have talked about it since?

BORIS BECKER: I thought I had a point and I still think I have a point. I don’t talk about Andre Agassi personally or other players personally. I talk about, you know, his company and how powerful it is and, how powerful of a role he plays, unfortunately, in major championships that is all I said. And I think I have a point there – if you look back about — the past 12 months – but that nothing personal against Andre or against Pete Sampras, you know, they are fortunate enough to have such a strong company behind them who supports them so good, you know, and that is all I said. So if he felt that I said something bad about him, then that was not the thing I wanted to bring out. It was never against him personally. I have never had a bad time with him personally. Unfortunately, he has beat me five and a half years pretty badly, but apart from that, I never said any bad word about Andre Agassi.

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