Former world number one and six times Grand Slam Champion, Boris Becker, told GiveMeSport, that he simply wasn't good enough to master the slower clay surface, and underlined the huge challenges faced by players, switching to the grass courts of Wimbledon from the red dirt of Roland Garros.
Becker is unquestionably one of the great tennis champions the mens game has ever produced, however after a professional career spanning 15-years, which saw the German lift an incredible 49 titles, including six Grand Slams, remarkably he never lifted a title on the clay-court surface.
Game didn't suit clay
Becker was known for his attacking prowess, brilliant net play and was at his most dangerous going forward, a style of play that stood him apart from his competitors on grass and the hard-court surfaces, but it was a side of his game that by his own admission, simply wasn't good enough to lift the title at Roland Garros.
By no means was the German incapable of mastering the red dirt, in fact quite the opposite. He did reach 9 major finals and three French Open semi-finals, however he also played in an era that was littered with top class clay-court specialists, who's style of play would have been slightly more suited to the surface than the great German.
"At the end of the day I wasn't good enough. I tried everything and left no stone unturned. In saying that I only played two or three every year on clay and that meant playing the very best of my generation, Mats Wilander, Lendl, Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Tomas Muster."
"My style of play coming forward wasn't really suited to clay in general. That is why Edberg never won the French, Sampras never won the French, McEnroe never won the French. I am in good company of guys that never won the French playing a different style."
"It is naturally more difficult when you are more comfortable on grass or on a hard court and every time I played somebody in the final, he was just a little better."
Clay to grass challenging
An honest and forthright appraisal by the former world number one, but one that also underlines the degree of difficulty, and the challenges that face the players when they switch from the clay courts of Roland Garros, to the grass of Wimbledon.
The official European clay-court season begins in early April, culminating with the French Open in the first week of June.
The season is approximately eight-weeks long and includes three Masters events, ahead of the Paris showpiece, providing players ample opportunity to fine tune their games ahead of the second Grand Slam of the year.
However the quick turnaround following the conclusion of the French and the beginning of Wimbledon leaves little time for players to adjust onto a surface that Becker acknowledges, behaves differently and offers completely different challenges.
"It is very, very difficult. I can't express enough about the difficulties. Clay is such a different surface to grass in general."
"Guys that go to the semi or final of the French, literally have a day, go on the plane and play Queens and Halle in a completely different environment."
"The challenge is to overcome playing two and a half months on clay and then stepping onto grass. You slip, it looks different, you have to play different, but the top guys find a way to do it."
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Game has changed
Much has been said about the speed of the grass at Wimbledon in recent years, as opposed to the era that Becker lifted his titles.
Many believe that the surface was a lot quicker back then which is the reason why great champions at SW19 played a dominant serve and volley game, which in theory would have made the transition that much more difficult.
However Becker was quick to point out: "There was a guy from Sweden called Bjorn Borg, he managed to do the double three times, so it shows how talented he was."
Becker was referring to Borg's unprecedented achievement of winning the French and immediately after Wimbledon, which he did so for three consecutive years in 1978/79/80.
He went on to point out that the courts might not have been quicker back then, but the fact the the style of play has changed and the balls are actually a little slower.
Becker believes the balls fluff up and slow down much quicker than they use too and the dying art of serve and volley no longer exists, as players pound each other from the baseline in what has become a power game.
To read more about Boris Becker's exclusive interview with GiveMeSport, stay tuned for the rest of the week as he recalls his three Wimbledon titles and shares a little about Novak Djokovic the person.
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