Tennis enjoyed a boom in Germany from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s when Boris Becker and Steffi Graf were winning one title after the next. With women stars Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges both moving into the Top 20 and German men Philipp Kohlschreiber and Philipp Petzschner making a historic final at the Gerry Weber Open, it begs the question:
Is Germany close to experiencing another tennis boom?
Well, if this week is any indication then that boom could definitely be on the horizon.
The Kohlschreiber-Petzschner Gerry Weber Open final is just part of the success. Sabine Lisicki reached Sunday’s WTA final in Birmingham, her first final since 2009 and fourth in her career and she will take on Daniel Hantuchova.
Young German women’s talent Mona Barthel reached the semi-finals in Copenhagen, losing to world number one Caroline Wozniacki.
Goerges in April picked up her second WTA title by winning in Stuttgart in straight sets against Wozniacki. There were actually four Germans in the quarterfinals at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix – Goerges, Petkovic, Lisicki and Kristina Barrios – the first time that has happened since 1984.
And Goerges’ title was the first for a German in Stuttgart since 1994 when Anke Huber beat Mary Pierce.
Despite all the attention of Petkovic, Goerges pulled even with Petkovic with two WTA career crowns – both in Bad Gastein, Austria (Petkovic in 2009 and Goerges in 2010) and Petkovic in Strasbourg.
Petkovic and Goerges are the real power draws in the women’s game in Germany. And legend Steffi Graf offered some advice to the duo while playing a show match at the Gerry Weber Open.
“I think that both have to choose their tournaments very carefully and watch how they break up their season. That is a central point,” said Graf.
“As far as I can tell from afar, I think both players have strong characters who can deal with the new burden. Because a lot has changed in the last couple of months. There is a certain self-confidence needed, but Andrea and Julia both have that.”
But the real attention grabber for German women’s tennis came at the French Open when Petkovic reached the semi-finals of the French Open. In fact, the German edition of Eurosport scored its highest viewership rating for a tennis broadcast this season for Petkovic’s quarterfinal match against Russian Maria Kirilenko as 357,000 peopled watched the match on television – topping out at 460,00 tennis fans.
Still, that leaves plenty of room for improvement compared to the 11 million viewers for the 1985 Wimbledon between Boris Becker and Kevin Curren.
There is a bit less success on the German men’s side – with Florian Mayer the only German in the Top 20 at number 18. Kohschreiber is the second-best German at number 49 while Benjamin Becker is 69th, Petzschner 71st and Michael Berrer ranked 79th.
The German men struggled at the French Open where Petzschner, Berrer and Tobias Kamke were the only players to reach the second round and Berrer was the final German in the field – getting bounced a round later.
But that changed this week as Petzschner and Kohlschreiber made the final and Mayer reached the quarterfinals.
When asked if Germany was to soon experience a tennis boom, Petzschner said: “I hope so. The problem is that we are responsible for that with our performances, but the boom will not come from that. There were a lot of children here today and I signed a lot of autographs. I hope that when the kids come here and watch these kinds of matches that they want to play tennis. I think that we should be there as role models and if there is a boom … we give everything we can so that our performances result in a boom.”
Petzschner expressed his pride of reaching the Halle final.
“I have to say that both Philipp and I are damn proud. I am looking forward to the headlines tomorrow because German men’s tennis is so down at the moment,” said Petzschner, who won the doubles title at Wimbledon last year.
“We never play up to our potential and are so much like hobby players that it’s almost a miracle that we even can play in a final. We have been teased so much in the last couple weeks and months. We can’t really play consistently and just have the occasional exception.
“That’s why a week like this is good for the soul.”
Petzschner said the fans in Halle will be having a great time seeing two Germans trying to become the first German winner here since Tommy Haas in 2009.
“I think all of the fans are looking forward to tomorrow. We will once again have a German champion in Halle. Tomorrow is a day to celebrate tennis in Germany. Whoever wins should do that too.”
Germany will take on France in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup from July 8-10 in Stuttgart. And Petzschner hopes the Germans can use the current run of positive results in the final eight showdown.
One would think that Germany would try to play the Davis Cup tie on grass with the likes of Kohlschreiber, Petzschner and Mayer. But the German Tennis Federation was tight for cash and last year signed an agreement and the Germans are bound to Stuttgart’s clay.
“The thought was there (to play on grass here in Halle) but that didn’t come through. When it’s going as well as it is now, it’s always easy to say we should play on grass. But it’s not always that easy,” said Kohlscreiber.
“We are going there with a lot of confidence. I think that we have the potential to win the tournament. But we have to play to our potential,” added Petzschner.
Winning the Davis Cup would be an enormous boom to Germany’s tennis scene.