Ask Australian coach Bob Brett how close he came to becoming coach of Andy Murray in 2011 and he stares back at you with a ‘you don’t know anything’ look. Tell him that it was Murray who had admitted in his autobiography that he was considering Brett before choosing Ivan Lendl and he smiles. “I have no comment. I leave it to Andy’s comment which is fine by me,” Brett says hesitantly.
Murray might have been a close miss but Brett treasures the moments he has shared with tennis players over 35 years in the international circuit. The thrilling rivalry between Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg still brings a sparkle to his eyes.
“I personally think that Boris had a chance to win both the Wimbledon titles he lost to Stefan. In 1988, he won the first set and then it rained and he came back on Sunday. Boris was not quite the same and Stefan got on top and it was three straight sets,” said Becker’s former coach.
“The second one in 1990 Boris came back to make it two sets all and he was a break up. The next game Boris missed an easy forehand on his serve. That lapse allowed Stefan get back.”
Brett’s association with Becker started when the German was only 16. Having known him for so long Brett said he wasn’t surprised with Becker’s decision to play poker on a European tour or appear on the BBC car show Top Gear. “Boris is a superstar. He can go to Germany and you can put him alongside Franz Beckenbauer. I’m not surprised he’s on TV or playing poker,” said Brett.
But if Becker and Goran Ivanisevic were the highs of Brett’s coaching career there was also the low of having to deal with questions after Marin Cilic failed a drug Test allegedly for incautious use of glucose in Munich this year. They had already parted ways by then but Brett still feels disappointed.
“I was surprised. Marin was always very dedicated. But it was not glucose that was bought over the counter. Quite often players think since it’s a pharmacy it’s legal and there is where I think awareness is important,” he said. It is something that Brett has been preaching even on his four-day camp with some junior players here.
The talent here excites Brett but he feels like Australia and a few other countries, India too is struggling to produce top notch players. “It’s great that people like Leander (Paes) are still in the game. They provide the attraction. But I feel you have missed on a couple of generations and that’s difficult to get back. Leander and Mahesh (Bhupathi) were pulled along by Vijay (Amritraj) who was pulled along by other players before him,” said Brett before adding that the present generation of tennis players had missed the bus early.
“You look at what (Rohan) Bopanna could have done. If Sania (Mirza) would have been playing singles she could have been a driver of women’s tennis in India. Somdev (Devvarman) was spending more time in US and that has reflected in his game but to be honest you need a couple of guys who can be in top 20. People are still watching Tendulkar,” said Brett.
“For that India needs to send more kids to go through the same structure like Devvarman. The kids now are not watching Leander so often because doubles is not often shown on TV. At the end of the day it’s about the infrastructure you have got or the number of international tournaments you can host,” said Brett.