In an interview for Eurosport-Yahoo, the tennis legend Boris Becker revealed his love for chess and ritual of playing the game before going on court to ensure that he was mentally prepared for battle against rivals such as John McEnroe.
The six-time Grand Slam singles champion believes that Roger Federer would be the best chess player and regards his strategic thinking as the key to the Swiss star’s success.
“One thing that not many people know about me is my love for chess. I took it up as a teenager, and it always helped my tennis as a mental stimulation,” Becker told Eurosport-Yahoo!.
Like in tennis, chess strategy is very important. It’s a one-on-one situation, and it is very important to always remain one step ahead of the opponent.
“I used to prepare for my tennis matches by playing chess, and it would get my mind stimulated and focused before going on court. It was essentially a mental warm-up.”
He added: “Mental energy is hugely important for success in tennis, and chess is the perfect way to tune the mind in to the stresses and strains of the game.
“Of the current players, Roger Federer would be the best. He thinks in the right way, always trying to stay one step ahead of his opponent and always concentrating on strategy and tactics.”
Becker is adamant that chess should be used by the current top players to gain a competitive and mental edge over their opponents.
“Many of the older players such as Ivan Lendl used to play chess, but I’m not sure if many of the modern-day players play the game,” he said.
“Rafael Nadal would also be good at chess because he is a strategic thinker and remains very focused on court, but Federer would be the best.
“Federer still has the hunger, desire, fitness and ability to win Grand Slams, and I can see him becoming the world’s best once more in 2012.
“Chess involves the same mental approach as tennis, and many players could improve their performance if they employed such methods to focus on the game before they go on court,” he added.
Becker believes 2011 will go down as one of the greatest ever years in men’s tennis, and puts the dramatic rise to prominence of Novak Djokovic down to his mental strength.
“Novak Djokovic, something must have exploded in his mind because he has suddenly become a much more focused, mentally strong player,” he said.
“His performance has dramatically improved over the last 12 months, and I think much of his development has been mental.
“Essentially, Djokovic is thinking much better in crucial moments of matches, and that is the key to his success.”
He added: “Andy Murray has the quality and the talent, and he must find now find this same ingredient.
“Without doubt, 2011 has been one of the best ever seasons in the history of men’s tennis and next season can be even better.”
Boris Becker was speaking at the opening day of the London Chess Classic 2011 at Kensington Olympia. The tournament runs until 12th December and tickets are available at www.chessinschools.co.uk