Boris Becker is going to jail as his glamorous life falls apart, with womanising and his taste for finer things causing his downfall.
Boris Becker became an overnight sensation when he won Wimbledon as an unknown teenager but personal and financial troubles have dogged him since he hung up his racquet.
Victory for the 17-year-old German at the All England Club in 1985 made him the youngest male player ever to win the tournament and it was the start of an enduring love affair with the Centre Court crowd.
Nicknamed “Boom, Boom” for his ferocious serve, Becker won Wimbledon again the following year and lifted four more Grand Slam trophies in a sparkling career that brought him 49 singles titles and career earnings of $70 million.
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Becker retired from playing in 1999 but remained a high-profile figure in the game with a commentary job for the BBC, before switching paths to coach Novak Djokovic to six Grand Slam titles between 2014 and 2016.
But despite the riches he earned during his career, he was declared bankrupt in 2017.
Now the 54-year-old is beginning a jail sentence in Britain after being found guilty of hiding $4.5 million worth of assets and loans to avoid paying his debts.
How Becker rose to the top
Born in Leimen in south-west Germany in November 1967, Becker took up tennis as a child when his father built a tennis centre in the town.
The teenager turned professional in 1984 and caught the world’s imagination a year later by beating Kevin Curren in the Wimbledon men’s final at the tender age of 17 years and seven months.
The towering red-headed phenomenon captivated crowds with his explosive serve-and-volley tennis, not afraid to dive full-length for the ball on the Wimbledon grass.
He retained his title the following year, beating Ivan Lendl in the final, and added a third Wimbledon crown when he defeated Stefan Edberg in the 1989 final.
Becker also won the US Open in 1989 and the Australian Open in 1991 and 1996, while twice leading Germany to Davis Cup glory.
He became world number one following his 1991 triumph in Melbourne. His former manager, the moustachioed Romanian businessman Ion Tiriac, described Becker in his early years as “the most natural, crystal-clear youngster I ever saw”.
“He didn’t know how to lie, didn’t need to lie, didn’t need to find excuses or hype, or cry when he was losing,” he said. “That’s what made human beings around the world identify with him.”
Some observers say his separation from Tiriac in 1993 deprived Becker of the firm hand that had guided his early career.
Becker’s wild love life steals the headlines
The German’s first autobiography The Player, released in 2003, made global headlines with its booze-soaked tales of luxury hotels and a string of female conquests.
Struggling with the pressure of professional tennis, The Sun reports he became addicted to sleeping pills, which then led to a battle with alcohol.
“I wanted to be right back there on top, to win again, and that was to be had at any price,” Becker wrote in his book.
Off the court, Becker’s womanising attracted attention and his tangled private life has kept him in the headlines since he retired from playing, including a daughter conceived in a brief but now famous encounter with Russian model and waitress Angela Ermakova in a closet at a London restaurant in 1999 while his then wife, Barbara Feltus, was pregnant.
Writing in another autobiography, Hold On, Stay a While, about the tryst, Becker said: “She (Ermakova) left her table for the toilet.
“I followed behind … five minutes small talk and then straight away into the nearest possible place and down to business.”
Barbara demanded a separation and the pair divorced in 2001, reportedly costing the tennis icon $20 million in cash, as well as his main family home in Miami and a further $3.5 million in legal fees.
Ermakova filed a paternity suit for their daughter Anna, now 22 and a model, which cost Becker more than $3 million after he initially denied he was the father and claimed he’d never met Ermakova.
All in all, Becker’s one-night stand cost him nearly $27 million.
However, despite the financial implications, Becker didn’t regret the event itself, as it had resulted in the birth of his only daughter.
Speaking to Radio Times Magazine, he said: “My daughter Anna is one of the best things in my life … I’m very proud of my daughter.”
Eight years after his divorce with Feltus, Becker married Dutch model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg in a high-profile event in Switzerland that was broadcast on German television.
The couple had son Amadeus in 2010 but separated in 2018.
Taste for luxury leads to financial ruin
In 2002, a court in Munich sentenced Becker to a two-year suspended prison sentence and fined him for tax evasion.
He was declared bankrupt in 2017 over money owned to Arbuthnot Latham bank. In a surprising twist, he claimed he was entitled to diplomatic immunity from legal proceedings because of his role as a sporting ambassador for the Central African Republic but abandoned that attempt.
Despite financial issues, it seems Becker became accustomed to the finer things in life even after his sporting career ended.
Christian Schommers, who co-wrote Becker’s 2013 biography Life Is Not A Game, previously said: “He still lives at the same standard he enjoyed as an active tennis professional when the millions were flowing.
“From expensive rents or holidays to Ibiza — even though he has a home on Mallorca — through to expensive meals, cigars, whisky … on top of that he is extremely generous.
“I’ve never been to a dinner where several people were present which he hasn’t paid for.”
But clearly, the lifestyle was unsustainable.
Becker told the jury in his trial how his $70 million career earnings were swallowed up by an expensive divorce from his first wife, child maintenance payments and “expensive lifestyle commitments”.
Becker’s lawyer, Jonathan Laidlaw, said at the time of the bankruptcy he was too “trusting and reliant” on his advisers.
Judge Deborah Taylor on Saturday sentenced Becker, who lives in Britain, to two and a half years behind bars, of which he will serve half, at Southwark Crown Court, saying he had lost his “career and reputation”.
She said while he had doubtlessly been humiliated by the proceedings, “there has been no humility”.