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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First Time ATP World Tour Winner Spotlight: Benjamin Becker

Benjamin Becker© AFP/Getty ImagesBenjamin Becker

German Benjamin Becker became the first qualifier to win an ATP World Tour tournament in 2009 as he dashed the hopes of Dutch wild card Raemon Sluiter 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday to clinch the title at the Ordina Open, an ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

At the age of 28, Becker captured his first ATP World Tour title in his second final attempt – having finished runner-up at Bangkok in 2007 (l. to Tursunov). The Merzig native is the first German to triumph in ‘s-Hertogenbosch since Michael Stich lifted the trophy in 1992.

The right-hander is the one of three qualifiers to reach an ATP World Tour final in 2009, joining Russian Evgeny Korolev – who finished runner-up at Delray Beach (l. to Fish) in February – and today’s runner-up in Eastbourne, Frank Dancevic of Canada. caught up with Becker after his maiden triumph.

How does it feel to capture your first ATP World Tour title as a qualifier?
It’s great. It’s a little bit unexpected but obviously it’s a great achievement for me. It’s something you work for and you always dream of and to actually achieve it is a very nice feeling.

Is this a belated birthday present to yourself since you just turned 28 four days ago?
Yeah, of course! I didn’t think about it that I wanted to give myself a present, but obviously it’s great that it happened in the same week and I will always remember this birthday now.

As a youngster growing up, was it a dream of one day winning an ATP World Tour title? Did you think it would come sooner than 28?
No, not at all because I knew how tough it is. I always had this dream of winning a title, but to actually achieve it is really hard. So you don’t expect it to come right away - you know it takes some time, some effort, a lot of training and a little bit of luck obviously during the week and it happened to me this week.

You defeated a Top 10 player and top seed (Verdasco), a former champion (Llodra) and a countryman (Schuettler) before beating a surprise finalist (Sluiter). Talk about the players you beat this week?
Obviously I beat really good guys. I told myself, when I went into the final, I had a really good run, I beat really good grass-court players and to feel comfortable about myself and I did. To beat those guys within a week is a great achievement for me and a great sign that I really can play consistently for the week and even longer I hope. That’s why it really feels great to have a title and beating good guys like this.

You played very well throughout the tournament, only losing one set in the main draw. What area of your game were you most pleased with?
I really served well. That obviously makes a difference when you serve well and you can hold your service games easily. It takes a little bit of the pressure off when you return and puts a little bit more pressure on the other guy. It really made a difference that I served well on the important points; I remember a few points against Verdasco that I served aces when he had chances to break me. It just happened that I played the important points well and used my weapons and that made a big difference.

Coming into your second ATP World Tour final, did you prepare differently this time around from the first final?
I was a little bit less nervous I would say; in the first final I almost couldn’t play! This final, I had already been there once and it’s a little bit different. I didn’t do anything special. I’ve been a few Challenger finals before so I just tried to do the same thing as I had done there, just the same thing as always and just enjoy it to be here again on the last day.

You slipped to No. 130 last year and now you are on your way back into Top 50 and higher. You're improved your ranking with four Challenger titles already and what was your goal for this year?
Well my first goal was to be back in the Top 100. I achieved it a few weeks ago and now we’ll just see. Wimbledon is coming up so quick now and the big tournaments are coming up and I will just try to keep my level, try to play consistently and just try and do my best and see where I end up at the end of the season. So I won’t have a specific goal, I just want to play good tennis for the whole year now.

How did you end up going to Baylor University and could you reflect back on your college days?
Baylor was a great place for me. I really developed my game there, I developed as a person there – so it was a really good decision for me to go there. I had a lot of fun and it’s a big part of who I am and the way I play today so it was a good decision, a lot of fun, and I would do it anytime again.

Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge for helping you get where you are today in tennis?
A lot of people, starting from my first coach to my new coach now. Tarik Benhabiles, who has helped me a lot toward the first two-three years of my career obviously had a big impact on me. All the coaches have an impact on you, they develop you as a player. Every coach has a different impact on you so it’s all just a question of how you absorb it and do something with it. Everyone who supports you, your family and friends, I had a lot of them here today and that makes you feel good and comfortable on the court.

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