Looking for the Next Ace
Munich, April 27 – This weekend sees the ATP come to Germany for the start of the BMW Open held at the Tennis Stadium Iphitos. The tournament is part of the clay court season and will start on Saturday, April 28th, with the final taking place on the 6th May.
The event has had the support of BMW since 1986 but a German has not won since Philipp Kohlschreiber in 2007. For the German fans, it’s a case of what has gone wrong with the nation’s tennis.
It all seems a distant memory from when they had the success of household names such as Boris Becker, six-time Grand Slam winner and former world number 1. And Steffi Graf who won 22 Grand Slam events, the second highest in history and was world number 1 for a record 377 total weeks, the longest period for any player, male or female.
Quick, name the top-ranked men’s player from Germany?
It’s a tough question to answer. After names like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray, this current generation of tennis stars from any other country have a tough time winning titles over those on top of the list.
The highest ranked German is Florian Mayer at #21. Kohlschreiber is #33. Respectable. But after that, Philipp Petzschner is down at #75. On the flip side, Spain has five players in the Top 20, France four. Since 2006, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have won 24 of the 25 Grand Slams (Juan Martín del Potro from Argentina won the U.S. Open in 2009). Zero Slams for the Germans – both men and women.
Kohlschreiber agrees that the Big Four are dominating, but it doesn’t mean he or others can make some waves. “Many of us are playing well, and the people should know us, but on the other hand it creates pressure to win. I want to win, I want to play well in the Grand Slams. Bottomline: you have to beat the big guys on the big courts, that’s how you can create some noise.”
The BMW Open is also known as the International Tennis Championships of Bavaria, and the president of the Bavarian Tennis Association, Helmut Schmidbauer was on hand to promote the 97th edition of the tournament. He spoke to Sport Eagle about the future of German tennis and finding the next Becker or Graf.
“Our goal is to further the sport, and find the successors to the past legends,” stated Schmidbauer. “We have developed a good base for tennis in Germany, not only Bavaria.”
He agreed the current stars may not live up to past glory, nor be able to win Slams today, but the future is bright. “Kenny Krawietz is a talented future star, and we also have other 15-, 16-year-olds who are in the system and we are optimistic that we will have better players than now.”
A concern for the tennis association, and all other sports in this country, is a declining number of members, and thus the pipeline of future stars could be thin. And to make sure that they don’t have a gap between stars, the association is starting early, finding players as young as possible.
“We are involved with tennis in schools, from kindergarten-aged kids, and we have developed new projects, not only in Bavaria but entire country,” explained Schmidbauer. “We’ve taken a business approach to get our members excited about the sport and we want to produce a product that everyone will enjoy with their free time.”
Maybe it’s not as bad as first feared, maybe tennis isn’t declining in popularity. It could simply be a case of waiting for the next generation, similar to the U.S. who also appear to be awaiting for the new young guns, although, the proof is yet to be seen.
So before the future stars can be announced, it’s up to Kohlschreiber, Petzschner, and company to start winning, and here in Munich.
“The focus in on the German players as we’ll have more attention from the press,” admitted Kohlschreiber, who is from Augsburg and practice in nearby Oberhaching. “It’s exciting to have a lot friends here, family is coming out, it’s always special to play for the home crowd. It’s a strong draw and the winner will have earned it.”
The BMW Open starts with the Qualification Rounds Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29. The first round starts on Monday, April 30 at Tennisstadion Iphitos with the final on Sunday, May 6th. Tickets are available from München Ticket Tel. 0180 – 54 81 81 81 or online at www.muenchenticket.de