Boris Becker; The "Elder Statesman" Holds Forth...

Phil

Hall of Fame
Article from the Observer for your reading pleasure...


Boris Becker: 'When I heard they wanted to send me to prison, I thought only of my children. I went home and prayed to God'

[FONT=arial,helvetica,sans-serif]With the media, the taxman and American immigration all chasing him, the tennis star could never retire quietly[/FONT]

[FONT=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Interview by Nick Greenslade
Sunday November 6, 2005
The Observer


[/FONT]
[FONT=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]I wrote in my autobiography last year that if I had known what lay in store after my Wimbledon victory in 1985, then perhaps I wouldn't have wanted to win that final. Being Wimbledon champion was the greatest moment of my professional life, but no one could have prepared me for what would follow. One of the German magazines said that my life would become 'a choreographed spectacle'. They were right.


You think the English press are bad? Maybe, yet at least they don't act as if they own me. You can have no idea what it was like in Germany for me. I was considered public property and that hasn't changed for a moment since I beat Kevin Curren in that final. I love my country, I was proud to represent it and I still present TV shows there, but I can't live there - I had to move to Zurich. And, for the sake of my children's privacy, I couldn't have them live in Germany either.
I was very lucky in my playing career in that I had more than a decade at the top. I seldom suffered injuries and even when I retired I was still in the top 10 of the world rankings. In 1989 I picked up my third Wimbledon title and, in the same year, won the US Open for the first time. In 1996 I won the Australian Open for the second time. There aren't many players who win a grand-slam event 11 years after their first such triumph.
I would also be lying if I didn't say I liked the benefits that came with being a successful tennis pro. I was young, had my own place, lots of money and travelled the world. I was always very comfortable in my own company. Or, if I wanted to hang out with people, then that was easy, too. What teenager wouldn't be attracted to that kind of lifestyle? Back then, there was nothing like the huge attention from the international media that there is now.
The trouble started when I retired in 1999. Retirement wasn't a hard decision. My body wasn't as strong as it was and Pete Sampras was so much better than everyone; if I couldn't challenge the world's best player, then what was the point of going on? Unfortunately, I think my wife found it harder than me to adjust to our new life. We went through a very public, very messy divorce the following year and she moved to the United States.
As if that wasn't hard enough, I had the German tax authorities after me. It had been going on for several years, with them raiding my home as well as that of my parents in 1996. But I didn't think anything serious would come of it. It wasn't as if I was trying to hide my earnings from them. They made some big issue of a room I had been staying in when I used to visit my sister in Munich, saying that this confirmed my residency in the country and therefore made me liable to a whole series of taxes. It was absurd.
When, in 2002, my lawyer told me that I had been indicted, I was stunned. It got worse when the state attorney said that, if I was convicted, he would be asking for a prison sentence of up to three-and-a-half years. My first thought was of my children, how it would affect them and my relationship with them. When I got home from court one night, I began to pray to God for help. I was raised a Catholic and was once an altar boy; praying wasn't something new to me. On the other hand, I could have been a better Christian in the intervening years. Whether it was divine intervention I don't know, but I only received a fine.
A couple of months later, I was flying out to the United States to spend Christmas with my children. It was just over a year after 9/11. An immigration officer asked to me to wait behind while the other passengers made their way through customs. He then told me that I had tried to enter the States illegally, because I didn't have a visa. It never occurred to me that I needed one, but they said it was obligatory because I now had a criminal record. A criminal record! I couldn't believe it.
My wife and children were waiting for me in the arrivals hall while I had to sit around with a federal guard waiting for the first flight on which they could send me back to Europe. I was there for hours before I could tell my family what was happening, and then only by phone. It was humiliating. Fortunately, I have never had any further trouble returning to the States. If anything, they go out of their way to help me.
Those three years, from 1999 to 2002, were the toughest of my life. A few months ago, I was playing in a charity football tournament in Croatia. Diego Maradona was there, too. We had a chat and it made me realise that, whatever my problems were, his were far worse. Yet he's come through them and it's good to have him back. And I'm coming back as well, thanks to the hard work I've put in with my businesses and my TV work.
If you had told the 17-year-old Boris Becker, for example, that in 20 years' time he would be appearing on a British comedy show like They Think It's All Over, then he would not have believed you. He certainly would have never imagined that his English would be good enough. I feel lucky and fulfilled to work with the BBC's tennis coverage, as I have for the past four years. I need work, I need to be involved with tennis. While it's not the same as actually playing, I like the experience of doing live commentary and being around the best players.
If I could give only one piece of advice to a young tennis player such as Andy Murray, it would be this: don't believe what they say about you in the papers. One day, they will say you're the greatest, the next that you're the worst. Neither is true. What you should do, instead, is put your trust in your family, your friends, your coach and, if you believe, in God.
The life facts
Boris Becker was born in Leimen, then in West Germany, in 1967. In 1985, aged 17, he won Wimbledon at his first attempt. He went on to win a further two Wimbledon titles and also won the US Open and two Australian Opens. He retired in 1999 and is now a broadcaster in Germany and Britain, where he commentates for the BBC. · Boris Becker is a team captain on the new series of BBC1's They Think It's All Over
[/FONT]
 
J

jeebeesus

Guest
Thanks Phil ,good read. That made me glad i did not try hard enough to win Wimbledon when i had the chance. :)
 

littlelleyton

Semi-Pro
BB has been very honest about all that has happened and i think this makes him a very likeable guy. i hope all his bad times are past him now and its good to see him more on tv and on the oldies tour.
 

alfa164164

Professional
Correction

Becker did not win Wimbledon in his "first attempt" in 1985.
He lost in the 3rd round in 1984. He was trailing Billy Scanlon 2 sets to 1 and got injured.
 

killer

Semi-Pro
I've yet to read his autobiography, so i'm pleased that you posted this. Unfortunately becker seems to have had a serious problem dealing with the pressure put on him by the media and the tennis community- didn't i hear somewhere that he was using painkillers voraciously while he was a player, and not because of injury?
 

f1 tech

Semi-Pro
I just read his autobio. I thought it was pretty good and a great read for all you Becker fans!
 

andfor

Legend
alfa164164 said:
Becker did not win Wimbledon in his "first attempt" in 1985.
He lost in the 3rd round in 1984. He was trailing Billy Scanlon 2 sets to 1 and got injured.
What I believe he is saying is 1985 was his first attempt at Wimbledon after turning professional. As evidence of his amateur status ref. his entry in the 1984 US Open Juniors. During that period I do not think pros were allowed in the Junior draws as they are today. If he is taken literally then the correction is warranted if you accept the interpretation then not. Semantics?

Even then his 1984 run (as an amateur?) at Wimbledon to the 3rd round after first qualifying is quite remarkable. He would have been 16 then? WOW!

Nice read Phi. Thanks for the memories and insight on BB. He's been through a lot, for the good and not so good, that this one article can barely expound on. Truely BB is a dynamic individual and has had a huge impact on the game as we know it a play it today.
 

alfa164164

Professional
Andfor

Most likely it was a mistake on the writer's part, he/she could have easily said "first attempt as a professional" if he meant to convey what you are supposing. I don't know anyone who regards an amateur's entry in a Grand Slam as "off the record".
 

arosen

Hall of Fame
Boris had quite a roller coaster of a life, and the best part was he was honest about his adventures. Quite a personality, I wish the tour had more people like him nowadays.
 

AAAA

Hall of Fame
alfa164164 said:
Most likely it was a mistake on the writer's part, he/she could have easily said "first attempt as a professional" if he meant to convey what you are supposing. I don't know anyone who regards an amateur's entry in a Grand Slam as "off the record".
Boris and the writer are correct if the 1984 entry was junior Wimbledon and not Wimbledon. Junior wimbledon and Wimbledon are not the same thing.
 

andfor

Legend
AAAA said:
Boris and the writer are correct if the 1984 entry was junior Wimbledon and not Wimbledon. Junior wimbledon and Wimbledon are not the same thing.
BB's 1984 Wimbledon run to the 3rd round was in the open draw which he made through qualifying. It appears Boris was not a pro in 1984 although I could be mistaken and am open to correction.
 

f1 tech

Semi-Pro
I love Becker but the dumbest thing he did was to have a romp with a waitress in the restaurant and got her pregnant. She used him and he fell for it.
 

atatu

Legend
f1 tech said:
I love Becker but the dumbest thing he did was to have a romp with a waitress in the restaurant and got her pregnant. She used him and he fell for it.
She wasn't just a waitress, she was a Russian model. Yeah, not the smartest thing he's ever done....
 

andfor

Legend
atatu said:
She wasn't just a waitress, she was a Russian model. Yeah, not the smartest thing he's ever done....
The story gets even more detailed than that. That's all I am going to say.:mrgreen:
 

Phil

Hall of Fame
RiosTheGenius said:
thanks for the article Phil, that was good
My pleasure, Rios and everyone else...once in a while I'll get access to some of the UK pay sights or someone will e-mail me an article not available in the US mainstream press, and I'll post them on this part of the board for other like-minded tennis fans to enjoy.
 

AAAA

Hall of Fame
andfor said:
BB's 1984 Wimbledon run to the 3rd round was in the open draw which he made through qualifying. It appears Boris was not a pro in 1984 although I could be mistaken and am open to correction.
Could be, not bothered too much one way or the other even though the distinction is relevant.
 
Top