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Tennis

Riglewski: 'There will never be a tennis boom in Germany again'

Former German professional Udo Riglewski made it into the top ten of the world double rankings with his partner Michael Stich. He says the German Tennis Federation does too little to promote the sport.

DW: What impact will Sabine Lisicki's success in Wimbledon have on German tennis?

It helps, for sure when Lisicki wins. It helps to boost tennis a little bit. But no one will start playing tennis because of her.

Why's that?

There are just too many different things that kids can do today. When we were young there wasn't that much on TV and we didn't have the internet. We played tennis because there happened to be a tennis club in town. Nowadays the kids here play tennis and dance and learn music and do so many different things. So I think a real tennis boom like we had one in the nineteen eighties will never happen again.

Unless there is maybe an unbelievably strong number one player like Boris [Becker] was at the time. Even if Tommy Haas wins a big tournament, that will not trigger a boom. Maybe people will then come to watch the next event he plays at, in Hamburg for example, but we won't see more people signing up in tennis clubs to reach the number of two million members or more. Those times will never come back.

How did you get into tennis?

It was with my parents who were playing in a club and once a year we all watched the Wimbledon final on TV and we watched Andy Borg play. Borg was our big hero. For me and for Boris Becker and all the young people playing at that time.

You played at Wimbledon in the nineteen nineties, in what way have things changed since then?

Wimbledon has changed a lot since then: The facilities for the players, the locker rooms, and the courts with roofs… it has all improved a lot!

So then what is the future for tennis in Germany?

It is not as bad as it is always made out to be in the papers. Here in Bavaria, where I run tennis schools, there are more kids signed up in the competitions than ever before. We have 1.7 million members in German tennis clubs that is still one of the biggest in the world. It is just that people always compare it to the situation twenty years ago.

The future for tennis still looks pretty good in Germany. There are a lot of promising kids playing tournaments and travelling a lot. We seen 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds practicing a lot.

The problem is the German Tennis Federation, which is not managing tennis as it should.

The German Tennis Federation is the governing body of all clubs. It is the largest tennis federation in the world with more than 1.8 million members. Founded in 1902, it is also one of the oldest sport federations in the world.

So what is the problem?

It would be good if we had a professional management of the Federation, which is better at public relations and marketing and then maybe things could look up for the sport here in Germany again. For example when I started, everything was for free once you got to a certain ranking. The Federation then gave you access to training facilities for free. Now you have to pay. To pay for training and facilities for a couple of years until you make it to a professional level is really expensive and that is a big problem.

In Germany we have a lot of good former players who are working to promote the sport, but these are individuals, there is no well-managed concerted effort here. If Michael Stich, for example, got a senior position with the German Tennis federation, that would be a good signal.

Udo Riglewski, born 1966, was a German tennis professional who made it into the top ten of the world doubles rankings playing often with Michael Stich. During his career he won 10 doubles titles and finished runner-up an additional 10 times. He was ranked World No. 6 in 1991. Now he runs several tennis schools in southern Germany.

Dave Raish conducted the interview.