It is so easy to fall off the radar, forgotten by fans. So easy to have your achievements gather dust, only to be remembered when some cocky youngster comes along and breaks your record.
Boris Becker, former Tennis champion, during the second day of Hindustan times Leadership Summit in New Delhi. HT/Virendra Singh Gosain
But for someone like Boris Becker, there's no chance of that happening. From becoming the
youngest unseeded Wimbledon champ in 1985 to breaking rackets on court to the famous Nobu cupboard affair - the former world No. 1 finds various emotions attached to his name, and one thing is for sure, they will never be forgotten.
At a time when television was breaking the metro barrier and spreading to smaller towns in India, a 17-year-old teenager from West Germany captured the imagination of many tennis enthusiasts who turned lifelong Becker fans.
Wimbledon has always been the Mecca for every Indian tennis enthusiast. And when 'Boom Boom' made his mark on SW19, there was no looking back. "There wasn't much money those days. The amount of hours I was on TV - in contrast to other sports like Formula One, where one doesn't see the athlete - helped," is what the 44-year-old said in a lively concluding session at the 10th HT Leadership Summit on Saturday. "I was young, living in Monte Carlo, and was the best in the world… Had I concentrated more, I would probably have had more titles today," he added.
What this six-time Grand Slam champion finds astonishing is India's poor performance in the global sports scene despite its sport-crazy culture. "Who is in charge of your sports programme? There's no reason why there shouldn't be a top tennis player from India with so many playing the sport. Look at history, there have been players like Krishnan, Amritraj, Bhupathi, Paes… but I don't see a 22-year-old from Delhi playing the quarters of Wimbledon. I don't know why. It doesn't make sense."
Today, tennis has evolved from Becker's time. Wooden rackets have given way to graphite ones and Wimbledon grass courts have become slower, allowing baseliners to triumph. "I miss classical matches. Today, the game has become faster, but I don't know if it's better," he said. "The racket technology has changed, but the game is just as competitive as it was. In fact, competition was probably greater in the 70s or 80s. Today, players use rackets that allow them to accelerate, use more spin and power three-four feet from behind the baseline. We used wooden rackets and had to learn different skills..." Becker said.
The champion called it quits at the age of 32, in 1999. "I wanted to retire when I was still in the competition. I was too proud to lose in the second and third rounds of big tournaments. When you start at the age of 15, that's pretty much all you know," he said.