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From boom to bust to boom again? The extraordinary life of Boris Becker
Boris Becker broke upon the international tennis scene as a prodigy at 17, when he became the first unseeded player and youngest major champion to win Wimbledon
From ‘Boom’ to bust — that in a nutshell has been the story of Boris Becker. The rock bottom, however, came last year when the six-time grand slam winner and iconoclast had to spend eight months in jail for tax evasion and concealing his finances.
However, if one thought the 55-year-old German tennis icon was going to be a washed-out has been for the rest of his life, think again. In a two-part documentary on Apple TV+ in April this year titles Boom! Boom! The World vs Boris Becker, a sobbing Becker said ahead of his jail sentence: ‘’That’s not the end yet. There’s going to be another chapter.’’
That chapter has come in less than a year, when Becker announced on Thursday that he was returning to the courts as coach to Holger Rune, the 20-year-old world no. 6 from Denmark. A former coach of world no.1 Novak Djokovic between 2014 and 2016, Becker will be associated with the hugely talented but often implosive Rune till the end of the season.
Will the contract extend to next season? ‘’There’s no point in signing a contract now when you’ve only been in cooperation for a week. If you are successful, you usually stay together, no matter whatever the contract says. If not, everyone goes their own way again,’’ Becker said matter-of-factly.
It has been an extraordinary life for Becker, who broke upon the scene as a prodigy at 17, when he became the first unseeded player and youngest major champion to win Wimbledon in 1985. He won it two more times in 1986 and 1989, and became a teen idol almost overnight, despite the presence of such peers as John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, living the high life and raking in millions through brand endorsements.
The boy from Leimen, a relatively small town in West Germany, was soon found wanting on how to handle his stardom. He became addicted to sleeping pills, even claiming he was drowsy from the pills during the 1990 Wimbledon final against Stefan Edberg, a match he lost in five sets.
His tempestuous relationship with ex-wife Barbara Becker (neé Feltus) grabbed headlines soon after he met the Black designer-model in 1992 and married the next year when she was eight months pregnant with their first child. They famously posed nude together on the cover of Germany’s Stern magazine in 1993, and their relationship became tabloid fodder, though the couple had to endure racist attacks from the German media.
A few years down the line and on the verge of retirement from the tour, Becker’s sexual indiscretions with Angela Ermakova, a Russian woman he’d encountered at a trendy London restaurant, cost his public profile dear as the steamy details were lapped by the scandal-loving British media.
In January 2001, Barbara was granted a divorce from Becker, walking away with $14.4 million, their home in Florida, and full custody of their two children. A month later, Becker acknowledged that he was the father of Angela’s child.
It was a downward spiral from there onwards when next year, the German courts came after Becker for owing 1.6 million euro in back taxes because he lived in Munich for a few years in the 1990s while claiming residence in the tax haven of Monaco. Becker paid a hefty fine and avoided jail time.
It’s perhaps Ion Tiriac, the Romanian tennis icon and businessman who managed Becker at the height of his powers, who summed up Becker’s rollercoaster journey in the documentary, comparing the sports star to “a child” tempting fate by repeatedly sticking his finger into a flame. “He just tries to see if he’s getting burned or not getting burned,” Tiriac said.
Tragic flaw? Yes, that’s Boris Becker for you!