Did Becker have the potential to be on par with Borg?

GameSetR

Rookie
I've always heard Becker referred to as an underachiever. I know he's always grouped in with Edberg and Wilander, but did he have the talent to be closer to the level of a Borg?
 

Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
Becker could have been up there with the absolute greatest of all time, if his mentality was utter professionalism. He had an excellent winning mentality on court when he was in a good place, and his power and talent were excellent. He was a much more tortured soul though, particularly as he got older. He also loved the celebrity profile even though it harmed him in some ways.
 

ChrisG

Professional
Boris had all the attributes to be in the conversation, but his mindset wasn’t the best… his S&V was top tier but his baseline game was also very consistent. He fell short at the French Open (3 semi finals) and that could have change his status.
 

GameSetR

Rookie
I wanted to get a better idea of Becker's record against some of the crop - though they never met in a major, Becker was 6-1 against Courier. Goodness.

Courier go could toe-to-toe with Agassi and Edberg, but apparently couldn't handle Becker at all.
 

StringGuruMRT

Semi-Pro
As mentioned before Beckers mindset hindered him. As a huge Becker fan, I would get frustrated with his stubbornness of trying to beat baseline players from the baseline, mainly Agassi. I do believe that if could have broken through at least once in a clay tournament (any clay tournament) his legacy would be more secure. As it is though, he is definitely one of the the ATG indoors, especially on carpet!
 

big ted

Hall of Fame
I wanted to get a better idea of Becker's record against some of the crop - though they never met in a major, Becker was 6-1 against Courier. Goodness.

Courier go could toe-to-toe with Agassi and Edberg, but apparently couldn't handle Becker at all.
becker was also 4-1 against lendl in GS tournaments... definitely a big match player ;)
 

Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
becker was also 4-1 against lendl in GS tournaments... definitely a big match player ;)
5-1. Lendl's only win over Becker in a major was at the 1992 US Open. Becker beat Lendl in majors at 1986 Wimbledon, 1988 Wimbledon, 1989 Wimbledon, 1989 US Open and 1991 Australian Open. Becker also beat Lendl in the 1988 Masters final at Madison Square Garden, which went virtually to the last possible point and ended on a 40+ stroke rally and netcord winner.
 

Mustard

Talk Tennis Guru
As mentioned before Beckers mindset hindered him. As a huge Becker fan, I would get frustrated with his stubbornness of trying to beat baseline players from the baseline, mainly Agassi. I do believe that if could have broken through at least once in a clay tournament (any clay tournament) his legacy would be more secure. As it is though, he is definitely one of the the ATG indoors, especially on carpet!
Aye. Becker vs. Agassi is a fascinating rivalry. Becker was in control early on with gutsy stuff on the court, like their 1989 Davis Cup epic. In the 1990s, Becker became obsessed with trying to beat Agassi from the baseline and fell flat on his face virtually every time. Those 1995 matches at Wimbledon and the US Open are classics though. 1995 Wimbledon saw Becker coached by Bollettieri (Agassi's old coach) and Agassi coached by Gilbert (who Becker had history with). One of Becker's best match wins, in my opinion, coming from 2-6, 1-4 (2 breaks) down to win 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6. Gilbert vowed that Agassi would go on a "summer of revenge" afterwards.
 
I wanted to get a better idea of Becker's record against some of the crop - though they never met in a major, Becker was 6-1 against Courier. Goodness.

Courier go could toe-to-toe with Agassi and Edberg, but apparently couldn't handle Becker at all.
It’s all about matchups. Becker has an overall losing record against Agassi. Don’t mean that much.
 

urban

Legend
Actually i have seen a match between Borg and Becker on the senior tour. Borg had lost much of his magic from the baseline, and ironically he made the most points with volleys. Becker was very much in control, until he tore a muscle and had to retire. So win for Borg.
This senior match is certainly not representative, but it tells something about Beckers weakness. He was bit too heavy and prone to injury. He also had heavy legs and was not mobile enough in long rallies, often giving much room on his forehand, although it was his better side. But on the run, his forehand could become erratic. That said, Becker was a born grass courter, and on major occasions, when he had something left in his tank, he was devastating. He could intimidate people with his blue eyes, had that big serve but also a fine backhand cross return on grass. And he could cover and crowd the net with his big body and long arms. On grass, i see the Boris of say 1986 as a difficult matchup for Borg. On clay, Borg would butcher Becker.
Both were young phenomenons, but Borgs biggest assets were his streamlined, flexible body and his fast, finely defined legs, which were the best in whole tennis, along with those of Graf. The only thing flexible in Boris! body was his wrist, which he could really clap around.
 

GameSetR

Rookie
Actually i have seen a match between Borg and Becker on the senior tour. Borg had lost much of his magic from the baseline, and ironically he made the most points with volleys. Becker was very much in control, until he tore a muscle and had to retire. So win for Borg.
This senior match is certainly not representative, but it tells something about Beckers weakness. He was bit too heavy and prone to injury. He also had heavy legs and was not mobile enough in long rallies, often giving much room on his forehand, although it was his better side. But on the run, his forehand could become erratic. That said, Becker was a born grass courter, and on major occasions, when he had something left in his tank, he was devastating. He could intimidate people with his blue eyes, had that big serve but also a fine backhand cross return on grass. And he could cover and crowd the net with his big body and long arms. On grass, i see the Boris of say 1986 as a difficult matchup for Borg. On clay, Borg would butcher Becker.
Both were young phenomenons, but Borgs biggest assets were his streamlined, flexible body and his fast, finely defined legs, which were the best in whole tennis, along with those of Graf. The only thing flexible in Boris! body was his wrist, which he could really clap around.
Great post.
 

Thetouch

Professional
Becker won his 3rd Wimbledon at age of 21 and by 23 he had already been in 6 finals - Sampras and Federer won their 1st at age of 22. It proves how much potential Becker had and how much he wasted it.
 
Becker won his 3rd Wimbledon at age of 21 and by 23 he had already been in 6 finals - Sampras and Federer won their 1st at age of 22. It proves how much potential Becker had and how much he wasted it.
I think Sampras won the us open at 18. Anyway, everyone progresses at a different rate. Some peak earlier but burn out earlier. Becker probably reached his plateau very early. He had some limitations in his game and wasn’t as smooth as some of the others so it’s not that surprising.
 

Thetouch

Professional
I think Sampras won the us open at 18. Anyway, everyone progresses at a different rate. Some peak earlier but burn out earlier. Becker probably reached his plateau very early. He had some limitations in his game and wasn’t as smooth as some of the others so it’s not that surprising.
I meant Wimbledon only. It took Sampras still about 5 years before he won there. Becker wasn't as athletic overall that's for sure but he should have won more than he did, at least 2 more Wimbledons and had he not been that stubborn against Agassi and kept his cool he should have actually won the US Open 1990 as well since Sampras was still on the progress then and couldn't match Becker's power and mental strength.
 

BorgTheGOAT

Hall of Fame
becker was also 4-1 against lendl in GS tournaments... definitely a big match player ;)
5-1. Becker actually had positive H2H against almost every one of his great contemporaries. Not sure though whether he was a big match player as he had the weird habit to have negative slam H2H against people he usually dominated (Wilander, Edberg, Mac to name a few). Lendl is the big exception here where he was 5-1 in slams but 10-11 overall.
 

NedStark

Semi-Pro
I've always heard Becker referred to as an underachiever. I know he's always grouped in with Edberg and Wilander, but did he have the talent to be closer to the level of a Borg?
Removing Edberg out of the scene then Becker would have won at least 5 Wimbledons.
 

80s New Wave

New User
I don't think he had Borg level athleticism to win as much in slower conditions, he really excelled in faster conditions like grass and carpet. Borg obviously excelled in almost any circumstance, even at the uso though he didn't win it's not like he was losing early. It was just tough to beat Connors or McEnroe in N.Y.
 

ollinger

G.O.A.T.
Seems silly to compare him to Borg. Becker as I recall never won ANY clay singles titles as a pro, so clearly lacked Borg's ability to compete on different surfaces
 

BGod

Legend
It seems 1987 was a big turning point in his career. Obviously he doesn't beat Wilander nevermind Lendl at the French then but the Doohan loss at Wimbledon and Gilbert up 2-0 at USO although he might not win the title there either. But the disappointing results that year seemed to have bled into 1988, kinda fell flat against Edberg after first 2 sets at Wimbledon and straight set loss to Cahill at USO? Maybe he was injured I don't know. Just feels like he wasted those 2 seasons. Then in 89 he really could have won the French and ending YE #1 might have propelled him for 90-91 where he had somewhat flub losses such as 90 Wimbledon, 91 French (yes Agassi) and Haarhuis at USO in straights? Again was he injured???? So I mean obviously 87-91 he wins 3 Slams instead of maybe 6 or 7!!!!

The 96 AO seems like a gift though considering the 1st Round losses inbetween. That kind comes out of nowhere.
 

NedStark

Semi-Pro
The 96 AO seems like a gift though considering the 1st Round losses inbetween. That kind comes out of nowhere
Actually he reached Wimbledon final and USO SF, and also won WTF in 1995. In Wimbledon 1996, he just won Queens before that and was basically locked to reach the final (with and without hindsight), but injured his wrist in 2R and had to skip the USO Series.

So it definitely did not come from nowhere.
 

GuyForget

Rookie
I wanted to get a better idea of Becker's record against some of the crop - though they never met in a major, Becker was 6-1 against Courier. Goodness.

Courier go could toe-to-toe with Agassi and Edberg, but apparently couldn't handle Becker at all.
yeah Agassi-Courier-Becker was one of those weird H2H triangles
 

GuyForget

Rookie
Becker won his 3rd Wimbledon at age of 21 and by 23 he had already been in 6 finals - Sampras and Federer won their 1st at age of 22. It proves how much potential Becker had and how much he wasted it.
not sure he did, the game just went up a gear in the 90s, with emergence of Pistol, Agassi, Courier, Goran, +Stich, + Edberg better than Becker for most of 90+91 as well. Was still a monster indoors, but not that much of a threat at most slams vs a field like that, + I say that as a huge Becker fan (he only had Lendl+Edberg to contend with in 80s, + he owned Lendl mentally when it mattered). Sampras+Agassi were just better than him, both beat him 3 times in slams, + he doesnt have a winning H2H slam record against anyone else on the list above
 

Thetouch

Professional
not sure he did, the game just went up a gear in the 90s, with emergence of Pistol, Agassi, Courier, Goran, +Stich, + Edberg better than Becker for most of 90+91 as well. Was still a monster indoors, but not that much of a threat at most slams vs a field like that, + I say that as a huge Becker fan (he only had Lendl+Edberg to contend with in 80s, + he owned Lendl mentally when it mattered). Sampras+Agassi were just better than him, both beat him 3 times in slams, + he doesnt have a winning H2H slam record against anyone else on the list above
Well that's why I said he wasted his talents because he had the talent, mentality and endurance to beat them all yet he lost matches that he should have never lost like that WB final against Edberg or their RG SF or the WB QF loss to Agassi in 1992. If you add those matches and a few others you have a player who could have been a 10 + slam winner imo.

Beating Lendl 5 times in slams (3 were finals) at a time when Lendl was at his peak and also beating Edberg once in Wimbledon in straight sets is something that proves his ability to go toe on toe with the best. But he was also too damn lazy, that's for sure. I mean Agassi had his number but I never thought Agassi was the better player, Becker for some reason was often mentally blocked against him and lost those matches because of tons of unforced errors he made. I once watched their RG match in 1991 again and Becker should have never lost the 1st set, I believe he was serving for the set and Agassi didn't even play that well. Agassi also knew he would have most likely lost to Becker at the AO 96 after Becker was getting better since their Wimbledon match and Andre basically admits it himself by tanking against Chang. Becker almost came back in the same style like he did in Wimbledon at their US Open SF 1995 and I think Becker was about to get his number but Agassi also avoided Becker on a few other ocassions so we will never know. Sampras was overall the better player even though I still think Becker beats him in a hypothetical Wimbledon 1996 final because Becker was much better in 1996.
 

Thetouch

Professional
Btw even at the AO 1997 Becker lost in the first round in 5 sets to Moya after being up 2:1 in sets, that's another loss that should have never occured. Moya then went on to play Sampras in the final and the 1997 draw looked easier than the 1996 draw Becker had. An AO final Becker vs Sampras was also something that woud have been interesting to watch because I remember Becker beating Sampras straight in a tournament in Sydney or Perth the previous year which had similar conditions like in Melbourne.
 

NedStark

Semi-Pro
I don't think I can explain his astronomical decline in 1997, starting with the defeat against Moya. At least with Sampras, Edberg, Lendl, Agassi, Courier, we were able to observe their decline. But Becker, it was just too rapid.

Yet, had Pete caught an injury in 1997 Wimbledon, Becker would have won his last. Wimbledon 1997 was essentially a meme tournament, worse than 2000 (where Agassi/Rafter/Phillippoussis/Henman draw was actually good).
 

Thetouch

Professional
I don't think I can explain his astronomical decline in 1997, starting with the defeat against Moya. At least with Sampras, Edberg, Lendl, Agassi, Courier, we were able to observe their decline. But Becker, it was just too rapid.

Yet, had Pete caught an injury in 1997 Wimbledon, Becker would have won his last. Wimbledon 1997 was essentially a meme tournament, worse than 2000 (where Agassi/Rafter/Phillippoussis/Henman draw was actually good).
One of the reasons for his decline was the problems he had with the taxes in late 1996. As for that Moya loss, according to his book he said that match was scheduled to be played sometime later that day, possibly in the the evening. So he ate pasta around afternoon or whenever it was and then he was informed that the match would take place in about 30 or 45 minutes after his meal or something along those lines. So Becker said he went to play the match with a full stomach. However it doesn't really explain why he lost in 5 when he was up 2:1. After the 3rd set he was basically just present, not really playing. Maybe he was injured too.
 

flanker2000fr

Hall of Fame
I, for one, don't think so.

Becker had incredible attributes to his game (amazing serve, powerful baseline shots, a pretty good hand at the net), but people forget a bit too quickly that his movement was average at best. Last I checked, movement is a critical part of the game, and he was just too heavy on his feet. So I think his attributes put him in the same bracket as Edberg / Wilander, but behind the likes of Borg / Sampras.

Another way of saying it is: Sampras = Becker + much better movement.
 

BTURNER

Legend
I always think of Becker as an absolute master of the 1-4 personal 'hi't point. Whether he was serving, at net or from the baseline returning or passing, if he went for the big shot he could overpower anyone on any big point.
Boom (serve/return)
Boom (first strike/first volley or OH
Boom ( second strike forcing approach or passing shot/ first volley or OH.
On red clay, give him one more 'Boom' to finish.

But he had to stay very bold, very aggressive and keep those points short, not because he did not have groundies, but because he did not have the movement or temperament to do much more. The math got a lot worse as he sliced his 'rally' shots and started to pretend he was a tactician because he sure as hell was not that!

I honestly cannot think of any champion, including McEnroe, Edberg or Sampras, where I felt the average length of point stat was more vital to his success.
 
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flanker2000fr

Hall of Fame
I always think of Becker as an absolute master of the 1-4 personal 'hi't point. Whether he was serving, at net or from the baseline returning or passing, if he went for the big shot he could overpower anyone on any big point.
Boom (serve/return)
Boom (first strike/first volley or OH
Boom ( second strike forcing approach or passing shot/ first volley or OH.
On red clay, give him one more 'Boom' to finish.

But he had to stay very bold, very aggressive and keep those points short, not because he did not have groundies, but because he did not have the movement or temperament to do much more. The math got a lot worse as he sliced his 'rally' shots and started to pretend he was a tactician because he sure as hell was not that!

I honestly cannot think of any champion, including McEnroe, Edberg or Sampras, where I felt the average length of point stat was more vital to his success.
Spot on. And that is because all those players you mentioned had considerably better movement than Becker. He just needed to keep points short at all costs, and not be moved side to side.
 

BTURNER

Legend
Spot on. And that is because all those players you mentioned had considerably better movement than Becker. He just needed to keep points short at all costs, and not be moved side to side.
Its also true, that he was not very good at spotting problems in his strategy, tactics or strokes in the middle of matches. He did not 'self correct' or adjust as well as his contemporaries. He just got more frustrated that things weren't flowing well and waited for the timing on his serve to get him out of all sorts of messes that the rest of his game or his opponents game had induced. He really should have benefited from a rule change allowing coaching.
 

flanker2000fr

Hall of Fame
Its also true, that he was not very good at spotting problems in his strategy, tactics or strokes in the middle of matches. He did not 'self correct' or adjust as well as his contemporaries. He just got more frustrated that things weren't flowing well and waited for the timing on his serve to get him out of all sorts of messes that the rest of his game or his opponents game had induced. He really should have benefited from a rule change allowing coaching.
Well, he was never the sharpest tack in the box, that's for sure. If he had half the tennis IQ of a guy like Wilander, he would have won had twice the amount of slams he did.
 

BTURNER

Legend
Well, he was never the sharpest tack in the box, that's for sure. If he had half the tennis IQ of a guy like Wilander, he would have won had twice the amount of slams he did.
He's been accused of being 'stubborn' or obstinate, not stupid. Matter of fact I think he's a very smart intelligent man. The heat of battle on the court ( or sometimes life), obscures. He can't see his own match clinically, dispassionately as he is playing it. He's not a good problem solver like Wilander.
 

NedStark

Semi-Pro
He's been accused of being 'stubborn' or obstinate, not stupid. Matter of fact I think he's a very smart intelligent man. The heat of battle on the court ( or sometimes life), obscures. He can't see his own match clinically, dispassionately as he is playing it. He's not a good problem solver like Wilander.
It is not surprising that his resurgence in 1995-1996 coincided with coaching change and his adoption of a more tactical approach.
 

JasonZ

Professional
He's been accused of being 'stubborn' or obstinate, not stupid. Matter of fact I think he's a very smart intelligent man. The heat of battle on the court ( or sometimes life), obscures. He can't see his own match clinically, dispassionately as he is playing it. He's not a good problem solver like Wilander.
becker is neither smart or intelligent. but he had and still has some charisma about him, and is a likeable guy.
 
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