Boris Becker: It's an 'open secret' that Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic don't get on
Tennis no longer has entertaining rivalries because players are too scared of being fined for swearing about their opponents, Boris Becker has said.
The installation of on-court microphones at Wimbledon and other tournaments, capable of picking up every muttered expletive, has created a generation of players hamstrung by political correctness.
Instead, stars maintain a “fake” friendliness – it is an “open secret” in the tennis world that Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic dislike one another, Becker claimed, adding that Federer “cannot possibly” be as nice as he appears.
Writing in his latest autobiography, Wimbledon: My Life and Career at the All England Club, Becker said: “People occasionally put it to me that tennis is more boring now than when I played, and when I ask them why they say there are fewer characters.
“I reply that we have great characters, but it’s true they don’t show it as much because they can’t. They get fined and there are microphones on the court that pick up every curse or utterance in frustration.
“As a result, it’s very difficult to verbalise your frustration nowadays because everyone hears it and you go back to the locker room to face a fine of $10,000 or $20,000 or even more."
During last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals, Andy Murray was overheard shouting “shut the f--- up” towards his team and complaining that something had happened “five minutes before the f------ match”.
Becker, three times Wimbledon champion and currently Djokovic's coach, said tennis remains a “terrific” sport but it is now “a little too politically correct”.
He argued that seeing more naked rivalry on court would improve ratings for the men’s game, and called for more honesty from players.
Discussing the idea that Federer and Djokovic "don't particularly like each other", Becker said: "The reason Roger is one of the highest-paid athletes of all time is because he's like by everybody. But think about this - you can't possibly be liked by everybody... He makes good money out of his image, but would he make less if we saw a bit more of his true feelings?"
In an accompanying interview in Radio Times, Becker said the presence of microphones means players unnaturally keep their emotions in check. “Players are human beings and get p----- off if they serve a double fault, but they have to behave or get fined,” he said.
He also admitted that in his early Wimbledon days he felt uncomfortable with some of the traditions, such as bowing to the Royal box or being restricted to wearing white.
Becker now lives in the suburb of Wimbledon with his wife, Lilly, and son, Amadeus, for six months of the year.
He keeps a property in his native Germany but said: “I don’t live in Germany because of complete loss of privacy. Here I’m given space. People will politely say, ‘Hello, nice you’re here,’ and then walk on. I’m not national property. German people feel an entitlement, that they own me.
“They love me, but they fell in love with a 17-year-old from a small town and have a hard time accepting that boy is now 47 and is no longer one of them.”