This is part of a regular series following Benjamin Becker’s progress on the ATP tour. This is not a Benjamin Becker fan site, we’ll trash anyone given the opportunity (constructively, of course). The idea is to follow the progress of one player on the tour as an ongoing serial biography.
At this point Benjamin Becker is better known for sending Andre Agassi into retirement at last year’s US Open and hitting Marc Gicquel in the private parts with a 129 mph(208 km/h) serve in Halle last week than he is for his game.
Just as he was getting past the confusion of having the same last name as Germany’s other Becker and answering the same question about beating Agassi in every interview, Benni somehow managed to get his name into the headlines again. Gicquel recovered well enough to go on and win the match – hopefully he’ll wear a cup at Wimbledon, he’s in Andy Roddick’s section of the draw – but like most things during his rookie year, Benni moved on and kept improving. This week he made his first grass court quarterfinal at ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
After beating Agassi, he also moved on. He got to the semifinals at Tokyo, Delray Beach, and San Jose, and mixed in his Davis Cup debut for Germany in February against Croatia. By the time Indian Wells and Miami came around, the notoriety and the media commitments and the travel had worn him down. He was exhausted.
He’d managed to raise his ranking to number 44 but the hard part was yet to come. His next job was to get through the clay court season without dropping too far. Not an easy thing. For players who depend on a big serve and big forehand, playing on clay can feel like wallowing around in the mud. Last year he slogged through six clay court challengers and won exactly one match.
This year he reached the second round in three clay court events, one of them a Masters event, and came out of Roland Garros with a ranking of, well, exactly 44. That takes some luck of course, Andy Murray has actually gone up in the rankings since being out after hurting his wrist at Hamburg because other players failed to defend their results from last year, but it’s also very impressive because many players have one good result – such as beating Agassi – but just as many fade away when the season stretches out into unfamiliar surfaces and unfamiliar stadiums in far away time zones.
Benni and his management, Renaissance Tennis, also made progress commercially. Both Murray and Benni chose to deal with the ghosts of tennis past by wearing their clothing: Benni signed an endorsement deal with Boris Becker’s clothing line and Murray has an endorsement deal with Fred Perry clothing. Perry was the last British player to win Wimbledon way back in 1936. Benni also opened a tennis shop in his home state of Saarland in southwest Germany.
There is one place where Benni lost ground. Both Florian Mayer and Philipp Kohlschreiber passed him in the rankings so he’s now the fourth ranked German. Kohlschreiber was chosen for Germany’s Davis Cup match in April and he also won the tournament in Munich delighting the tennis mad Germans. Since hard courts are Benni’s best surface, he should be thinking about reclaiming his position as the number two German player by the time the hard court season ends with the US Open.
Here’s a quick look at Benni’s match results for his first year in main draw ATP events:
|Outdoor Hard||Indianapolis R2| Los Angeles R1| U.S.Open R4| Bangkok R2| Tokyo SF| Adelaide R2| Sydney R2| Australian Open R1| Delray Beach SF| San Jose SF| Memphis R2| Las Vegas 1-1| Indian Wells R1| Miami: R1|
|Indoor Carpet||Basel R1|
|Clay||Houston R1| Monte Carlo R2| Barcelona R2| Munich R2| Rome R1|
Hamburg R1| Roland Garros R1
|Grass||Halle (06) R1| Wimbledon R2| Halle(07) R2| ‘s-Hertogenbosch QF|
One and five in Masters Series events is not a good result. Three of those were clay court events and we already covered Indian Wells and Miami. He’d better pick up some points in Montreal and Cincinnati – the two remaining hard court Masters events – because all of the other hard court players will. There’s no standing still on the ATP tour unless you’re close to the top. If you can’t pick up three or four rounds in Masters events in your specialty, you’ll fall down the rankings.
It’s rough out there in the world of competitive sports but Benni is hanging in there and here’s the report card for his first year:
|Outdoor Hard: A|
|Indoor Carpet: D|
|Media Relations: A|
That A for media relations come from putting up with endless Andre Agassi and Boris Becker questions and also for responding to both of my interview requests. Appreciate that.