Monthly Archives: April 16, 2021

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
Grand Slams 4-4
Masters Series 1-5
Davis Cup 0-2

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
Clay: C
Grass: B
Commerce: A
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.

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Rear View Mirror – a look at last week’s picks

I picked six of the eight quarterfinalists at Nottingham and zero quarterfinalists at ‘s-Hertogenbosch. That zero wasn’t entirely my fault. Marcos Baghdatis dropped out, two qualifiers got to the semifinals, and Ivan Ljubicic reached his first grass court final. I should have picked Tommy Robredo, though, he reached the semifinals twice at this event and I missed that.

Read more about Nottingham below.

WIMBLEDON

Federer’s Half of the Draw

I’m picking Philipp Kohlschreiber as Roger Federer’s sacrificial lamb in the quarterfinals and that means I have Kohlschreiber over Fernando Gonzalez and James Blake. Gonzalez has been blowing his stack way too much this year and Kohlschreiber beat Blake at Halle. So here’s the deal: if you want to be conservative, take Blake or Gonzalez, that way no one can give you a hard time because you were silly enough to pick Kohlschreiber.

Andy Roddick has the easiest path to the quarterfinals. I’m not sold on him but he doesn’t have any of those younger, better players in his draw and Ivan Ljubicic doesn’t perform well at slams. That, by the way, encompasses our theme for this tournament: which young player is ready to step up and get into the quarterfinals of a slam? Richard Gasquet, Andy Murray, and Tomas Berdych have never gone past the fourth round.

Below Roddick there is a fascinating French triangle containing the toughest decision in this draw. Arnaud Clement beat Gasquet at Nottingham this week and they could meet again in the second round if Clement can beat Nicolas Mahut. Mahut, however, beat Clement at London/Queen’s Club last week and had a match point to win that tournament. The question is: can Mahut beat Gasquet?

This is a tough choice because the winner will probably meet Murray for a spot in the quarterfinals and Murray hasn’t played since he hurt his wrist at Hamburg. The answer to the question is: I don’t know if Mahut can beat Gasquet. But it might not matter and here’s why.

Even if Gasquet got past Mahut and met Murray in the fourth round, Gasquet hasn’t shown me that he’s mentally ready to get to a slam quarterfinal. I might not like Murray’s foul mouth and incessant mutterings – actually, I find them intriguing and embarrassing all at the same time, I feel like I’m sitting in a session at his therapist’s office – but there’s no question that he’s a fiery competitor. And, I saw his coach Brad Gilbert get Andre Agassi through to a French Open title off a bum shoulder, so if anyone can get Murray and his wrist to the quarterfinals, Gilbert can.

As for Mahut, he could go a long way but I’ve taken enough chances for one week by picking Kohlschreiber.

[Correction: Murray has pulled out of Wimbledon due to his wrist injury. Mahut is ranked below 100 and only the top 100 players can be chosen for an ATP fantasy team. Therefore I’m replacing Murray with Gasquet in the quarterfinals. Not much choice really.]

Nadal’s Half of the Draw

Except for consecutive third round appearances at the US Open, Novak Djokoivc has steadily progressed to later rounds in each slam so I expect him to get past Lleyton Hewitt and meet Baghdatis in the quarterfinals.

Berdych has the least competitive fire of all those youngsters, but he also has three clay court players in his immediate section and only has to beat Joan Bjorkman to get to his first quarterfinal.

Since I’m one of those people who doubt Rafael Nadal’s grass court skills, who should I pick to beat him? Robin Soderling doesn’t function well at slams and Mikhail Youzhny is not a good grass court player. Next is Berdych who’s beaten Nadal every time they’ve met on a fast surface. I don’t think Berdych can do it either, reaching a quarterfinal is a stretch for him.

Djokovic has reached a slam semifinal and Baghdatis a final but Djokovic is in much better shape so I’m counting on him to beat Nadal. I hope he does else I’ll look bad.

Wimbledon Draw

Picks

Here are my picks for the quarterfinalists (who also comprise the eight players on my fantasy team): Federer, Kohlschreiber, Roddick, Gasquet, Baghdatis, Djokovic, Berdych, and Nadal.

Who will Federer beat in the final to match Bjorn Borg’s record of five consecutive Wimbledons? Probably Djokovic.

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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
Grand Slams 4-4
Masters Series 1-5
Davis Cup 0-2

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
Clay: C
Grass: B
Commerce: A
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.

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You’re a 30 y.o. tall dark and handsome tennis pro whose knees are shot but your other parts work just fine – so what now? Why reality TV, of course!

Rev up those libidos, folks, because last night – many thanks to NBC, or curses be upon them, depending – Mark Philippoussis began what the advertisers are calling “the match of his life.” Whew, and they ain’t kiddin’. The Scud, or Poo, or Flipper, as he is alternately called, began a life somewhat removed from tennis. He’s embarking on a new TV show about 30-something males romping with 40-something females. Can they make it work, is the premise. “Age of Love” is what they’re calling this heap of goodness.

Can we survive it, is what I’m wondering, perhaps uncharitably. Not that there is anything wrong with the Older/Younger ticket. Sounds pretty darn good to me, but then I’m a cradle-snatcher myself who happened to meet my partner when he was 30 and I was fourteen years older. So I would be first in line to pass my blessing upon the latest Poo Potpourri. It’s high-time this kind of hanky-panky made it onto the airways. After all, this Aussie was one of those blokes who got noticed off the courts too. He had a hunky charm that women liked, a basic shyness coupled with a certain intensity. Women eat that up, trust me, and let’s face it, his playing days are just about finished.

The last time Poo was in a tennis match of consequence was his 1999 quarterfinal with Sampras at Wimbledon. He’d already broken into the Top Ten in late March of that year for the first time and it looked like he would take Sampras out. But the big guy landed wrong on his left knee, and it all came crashing down around him. He suffered a cartilage tear and had surgery and, being a knee, he was never quite the same after that. I’ve always thought that size hindered Philippoussis, not just in terms of his movement but because he is so big, i.e. rather long-waisted and with a lot of heft to his upper body. So his lower body and the knees in particular bore the brunt of this weight. I’ve wondered if it would help him to slim down more, but it’s not like the guy is fat. He’s just big and long.

Given his physique and talent, Poo should have gone farther in his career, apart from the injuries. But he wasn’t always smart about his career. In fact the guy just didn’t seem too smart. My co-writer Nina and I discussed this one day. I rose to his defense, he is a Hunk after all, and he probably got the dumb label laid on him more than once in his career. I reminded Nina that women respond to his hunkiness and the last thing they want is brains getting in the way. I know all about this rant too, being blond myself, and having to cope with all the Driving While Blond jokes. So I can feel for Poo as a Hunk.

It’s interesting the ongoing love affair Americans have with Aussies. We’ve grown up with the notion that Aussie men are the REAL men. First we had Bryan Brown, then Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, then Mel Gibson in just about anything he did during his Australian period, and finally Russell Crowe in anything anywhere anytime. That’s a lot of hunkiness. Is their water better than our water?

So Mark Philippoussis comes out of a good tradition. He’s made People Magazine’s list of the top sexiest men twice. One year he had to share the limelight with his associates Lleyton Hewitt and Patrick Rafter. I suppose Hewitt is cute but he’s too much of a weasel on steroids for my taste. Rafter was much more like it. He could have done a reality TV show for sure. But Rafter ran like hell from the Hunk label. He wanted nothing more than to hang out with his family and surf. He’ll probably knock back a slab of tinnies and have a good hoot over his countryman’s new career tonight. Assuming they dare to show this show Down Under.

So how did our lad fare last night? Well, surprisingly he wasn’t too shabby. Polite, natural-seeming, a perfect boy toy. Unfortunately I had to fight my way through the show, which is actually a series. God help us. I can sit through five hours of Federer-Nadal no-sweat, but five minutes of Age Of Love and I was ready to hurl myself out the nearest open window. Mark, I’m frankly sorry your knees didn’t hold up.

A curious note: Poo is 6’5” and of Greek heritage, so I guess that inspired him to get a tattoo of Alexander the Great on his arm. It’s just that Alexander was barely 5’6”, and rather fair, and from Macedonia rather than Greece.

But I don’t have the heart to tell him. Neither should you.


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ATP Fantasy Tennis Season starts next week with Wimbledon. I’ve posted a Fantasy Tennis Guide with fast facts, strategies, and statistics to help you play the game. Sign up and join our subleague! It’s called tennisdiary.com. We send weekly email updates to all subleague members before the submission deadline.

This is my favorite week for tournament names. ‘s-Hertogenbosch is in Holland and it’s name is Dutch for the Duke’s forest. It was also the home of the painter Hieronymus Bosch, a 15th and 16th century painter responsible for The Garden of Earthly Delights, a fantastical and somewhat gruesome painting of the garden where Adam and Eve wandered.

Nottingam, England, was originally named Snotingaham, “the home of Snot’s people”, after the Saxon chieftain Snot. Therefore, I call this week’s tournaments ‘s-Nottingham and ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

Rear View Mirror – a look back at last week’s tournaments

The French went wild at Queen’s Club: Nicolas Mahut and Arnaud Clement made it to the semifinals. Because rain held up the schedule, Mahut beat Ivan Ljubicic and Rafael Nadal on the same day. Mahut came within a net cord or two of beating Andy Roddick in the final before losing in three sets. Apparently Mahut’s coaching team recently gave him a tongue lashing about his attitude and it paid off. He was diving all over the court. He even dived after a ball that went into the net.

Halle was notable for the absence of Roger Federer. He’s also absent this week so he’s going into Wimbledon without a warmup tournament and that takes nerve. Either he’s falsely confident or he has an injury and neither one is good. I’m a bit worried for the guy.

Marcos Baghdatis got to the final and lost to Tomas Berdych. Baghdatis does well on grass, probably because the quick points don’t challenge his poor conditioning too much.

NOTTINGHAM

It’s a strange thing. Richard Gasquet has won Nottingham two years in a row and yet he’s 1-2 at Halle. Last week he lost to a journeyman qualifier in the first round. Seems to me that both places have the same grass and dreary weather so I have no idea what the problem is. Still, I have little choice but to pick him to get to the final again given the competition. I’m nervous about it, though, because he could meet Arnaud Clement in the second round and Clement beat him two out of three times on fast surfaces last year.

If Jonas Bjorkman and doubles partner Max Mirnyi meet in the quarterfinals, it’ll be their twelfth meeting. Bjorkman has won eleven of them.

I have Dmitry Tursunov meeting Gasquet in the final. I’m picking Gasquet to win it because I watched Tursunov lose to Andy Roddick in the semifinals at Queen’s Club and, honestly, I have to wonder what ricochets around that silver-quick, totally unclassifiable brain of his. He tried to short hop a drop shot off the baseline at one point. He’s like a recalcitrant child who purposely screws up when the stakes are high just so he can walk up to you afterwards and say, “See, I told you I couldn’t do it.”

Nottingham Draw

Picks:

Quarterfinalists: Gasquet, Clement, Bjorkman, Mirnyi, Ivo Karlovic, Juan Martin Del Potro, Sebastien Grosjean, Tursunov.
Semifinalists: Gasquet, Bjorkman, Karlovic, Tursunov.
Finalists: Gasquet, Tursunov. Winner: Gasquet.

’s-HERTOGENBOSCH

This is an ugly draw because there are no true grass court players. Baghdatis comes closest so I naturally have him in the final.

I’m picking Gael Monfils over Ivan Ljubicic because he beat him at Queen’s Club last year and Ljubicic seems to be slipping down the ranking. I have Marc Gicquel beating Monfils in the quarterfinals even though Gicquel played his first ever ATP level grass tournament last week. He suffered through a 129mph(208km/h) serve to his private parts from Benjamin Becker’s racket and still got to the quarterfinals so I figure he can handle Monfils.

Guillermo Canas has been to the semifinals and final here but that was over four years ago. This will be his first time on grass in two years so he could look awkward. I have him in the final only because his first three opponents haven’t won an ATP level match on grass in the last three years and his semifinal opponent could be Gicquel. See what I mean, ugly.

‘s-Hertogenbosch Draw

Picks

Quarterfinalists: Fabrice Santoro, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Baghdatis, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Juan Ignacio Chela, Canas, Gicquel, Monfils
Semifinalists: Ferrero, Baghdatis, Canas, Gicquel
Finalists: Baghdatis, Canas Winner: Baghdatis


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