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Boris Becker has never been one to sit on the fence. But, having made London his home, he cannot decide whether to support Chelsea or Arsenal. And looking at his own sport, Becker is both fearful and optimistic for British tennis.

His fear is over Andy Murray’s back injury, which has ruled the Wimbledon champion out of the climax to the season, the ATP World Tour Finals, which start at the O2 next Monday.

“It’s no joke,” Becker says. “Not a torn muscle, not a twisted ankle, it’s a disc, so it’s a very serious injury. We should all be concerned. To have surgery is not a minor thing. We don’t know the extent of it. Murray’s goal has to be to be back for the Australian Open.”

The first Grand Slam of 2014 begins in Melbourne on January 13 and if Murray can fully overcome his injury then Becker has high hopes for the British No1. “He’s in the prime of his life. At 26, he should be able to play at that level for at least another three years.”

Becker is optimistic that by then Britain will have discovered a couple of players who might follow in Murray’s slipstream. “You have a couple of juniors here, 18, 19-year-olds, very good,” reassures Becker, although he explains why he will not name them.

The problem then is that the focus is on them and I want to protect them a little bit. If you get more good players, the chances are that one very special one out of a group of 10 or 15 will appear. Leon Smith [the LTA’s head of men’s tennis] is doing a great job but we need more coaches like that who understand the game and promote it in the right way. Now is the time. ­Murray winning Wimbledon has changed a lot.”

But, in the space of a few months, can even Murray’s historic triumph really have transformed British tennis? It was only four years ago that Pat Cash told me in a Standard Sport interview that British tennis was “absolutely a white middle-class sport”.

Becker smiles when I remind him of Cash’s comment and says: “I like Cash, he says what he thinks. It can’t happen overnight. It’s not by coincidence that the Lawn Tennis Association have a new chief executive [Michael Downey].

“They could have prolonged the contract with Roger Draper for another five years. So there are ­reasons to believe that people are willing to change. Downey believes in the ­grassroots system and getting more young kids involved, which is great.

“They have the financial means to promote the game and, with tennis booming in this country, they have to take advantage [of Murray’s win] to build something to last.”

Becker is ideally placed to judge the impact a Wimbledon champion can have on a nation. His own achievement in 1985 of becoming the first German to win the men’s singles title in SW19 led to several top German players emerging. “It did open a few doors and professional sport in Germany has never been the same since.”

We don’t know the extent of Andy’s injury. But he’s in his prime and should be able to play at that level for another three years

He says this without a hint of bombast but admits that he found it difficult to cope with his triumph, which at 17 made him the youngest Grand Slam champion until Michael Chang beat that mark four years later at the French Open.

Becker says: “I struggled with the expectations. It was very, very difficult coming back to Germany, being this sporting superstar when I was still so young.”

He accepts Murray does not have the same issue given he was 25 when he won his first Grand Slam title, the US Open, last year.

While injury will keep Murray out of the O2 tournament for the world’s top eight players, form could stop Roger Federer appearing. For the second time in three seasons the Swiss has not won a Grand Slam and he is sixth in the race for London with one qualifying event left — this week’s Paris Masters.

“If he does not qualify it will be a big blow,” Becker says. “He’s won it six times and people in London love him. If Federer wants ‘it’, he has it but he hasn’t shown it to us lately. So I think next year will be a very important year for him to show the world that Roger Federer still has some gas left in the tank.”

Enough gas not to think of retirement? Becker will not be drawn on that, saying: “Federer is a smart man and we’ve got to give him the time to make up his own mind.” But he adds: “He knows the season was a surprise and he can’t go on like this forever. The key is his motivation, his drive, his hunger. Is he willing to put in the hours and the discipline of what it takes?”

At 32, Federer is a year older than Becker was when, having lost in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 1999, he retired. Reflecting on this, the three-times Wimbledon winner says: “At 32, with a nice family and other commercial commitments, it is more and more difficult. Your body recovers more slowly. Your motivation goes, naturally.

“You cannot be up for every match and, once you’ve played Wimbledon 10 or 12 times, you’ve done it and know exactly what to expect. So are you willing to do what it takes to be the very best? He has split up with Paul Annacone, his long-time coach. The question is will he have a new one or will he do it on his own? That [getting a new coach] would tell me whether he’s 100 per cent committed or not.”

The O2 will see Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal compete but Becker does not see some of the others, like Juan Martin Del Potro who beat Federer in the Basle final on Sunday, as challenging the world’s top two. “He’s not been very consistent.”

Instead, he is much taken by a player who will not be at the O2 and who Federer struggled to beat in the quarters in Basle. The only problem for Becker is he cannot remember his name. “He is that great player from Bulgaria. He is known as the boy of Sharapova but he should be known in his own right. What’s his name again?”

After an assistant prompts him, Becker says of world No22 Grigor ­Dimitrov: “He is very good. He should focus a bit more on tennis and less on Sharapova and he will do better.”

Becker also expects another player who will not be at the O2, the 15th ranked Pole Jerzy Janowicz, “to make a mark next year”.

As for Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, who might still qualify for the O2, he says: “They’re top 10 players but they’re lacking something to go into the top five.”

But even a top 10 is not possible for an American or an Australian and Becker, who faced formidable rivals from these two countries says: “It’s surprising that two of the leading tennis nations in the world don’t have a player in the top 10. The American and Australian Federations are a little bit stuck in the past, which is why these countries have struggled. The people running them need to understand that it is a global sport.”

The Paris Masters and Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are part of an unrivalled autumn of live sport on Sky Sports including Premier League, Champions League, Autumn Internationals, the Ashes and the finale of the F1 season.

      

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