By Branson Hardcastle | Reporter
Baylor men’s tennis’ all-time leader in singles victories and doubles victories has returned to Baylor after a successful 12-year professional career.
Benjamin “Benni” Becker retired from professional tennis in August and has returned to Waco to finish his degree in business management. Becker plans to help with the Baylor men’s tennis team as a student assistant while taking 16 hours this semester.
Becker’s role allows him to help the team practice Monday through Friday, but he will not travel with them to tournaments.
Head coach Matt Knoll, who has been at Baylor for 22 years, said it will be great to have Becker back helping develop the current players.
“It’s great practice for [the players] to play somebody that is much, much better than them,” Knoll said. “The biggest thing is that he is not just here checking a box; he cares. That is clear to everybody here. He’s invested in these guys already in a way that is really noticeable and really meaningful. I think that is the coolest thing about having him here.”
Becker attended Baylor from 2001-2005. During his career here, Becker’s achievements included four Big 12 Championships, the 2004 NCAA team title and the 2004 NCAA singles championship.
Becker said that his achievements on the court are important to him, but getting his degree is important as well. He always planned on getting a degree, and both Becker and Knoll said he is a guy who likes to finish what he starts. Becker plans on finishing his degree this fall but said because of his busy schedule, he may have to take some classes in the spring as well.
Becker wasn’t content with just getting a degree from anywhere. It had to be from Baylor.
“There was only one option for me to get a degree from Baylor. They provided a lot for me,” Becker said. “The whole Baylor family formed me into the person I am now. They helped me get my career started in tennis. I really wanted to make sure I get a degree and that it states Baylor University on my degree.”
Becker said part of the motivation in returning to school was that he was the only person from his former Baylor team that didn’t have a degree and he would hear about it constantly from his old teammates if he did not have one himself.
Becker’s professional career earned him more than $4 million and saw him rise to the No. 35 ranking in the world in October 2014, which was the highest of his career. One of his most televised matches was against former world No. 1 Andre Agassi in the third round of the 2006 U.S. Open. Then at No. 112, Becker defeated No. 39 Agassi in four sets in what would be Agassi’s final match.
Knoll was in the stadium when Becker defeated Agassi and said it was special to be there.
“There were five people that wanted Benni to win and twenty-three thousand people booing Benni every time he hit a good shot,” Knoll said.
Becker also played 19-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer four times in his career, but lost in straight sets each time.
The relationship between Knoll and Becker has continued to develop over the years. Becker said that being back at Baylor with Knoll is allowing him to learn so much about coaching on the college level.
“I am very grateful for [Knoll]. He is helping me now by taking me under his wing. He is letting me see how he has been so successful in college tennis,” Becker said. “I couldn’t ask for a better start to actually get some insight into college coaching than here under the wings of coach Knoll.”