Boris Becker, the tamed Lion: an explosive tennis player, an “unpredictable animal” who bled from training and had millionaire lawsuits

It was never normal, standard. His life, his career, the fame, the scandals, the divorces, the physical changes even while active. And now the shocking news that she is going to prison for two and a half years. Boris Becker burst onto the big tennis scene in June/July 1985. It was “Boom Boom” Becker. An explosive tennis player. A monster that today would fill the courts of any Grand Slam, Masters 1000, ATP 500 and ATP 250 or exhibitions. He was just 17 years and 7 months old at the time. And out of nowhere, it occurred to him to win Wimbledon. King in the All England. The youngest champion in history.

Boris Becker’s popcorn at Wimbledon 1985, when he won the title at age 17DPA

He was called “The Lion of Leimen”, after the German city where he was born. Boris had a devastating serve from his 1.90m height that made him an imposing mass, when the overall number of players were still not as tall on average as they are today. And he had a right hand that was a cannon. But not only that: Boris was always going forward. He did not understand the speculation, the game matured and thinking. He was like a wild horse roaming the courts. That’s why he liked it. That’s why he was shocking. That’s why people went crazy and felt, in just two games, that the ticket was already paid.

He was the Becker who patented the famous popcorn on the net. Because he attacked so much that sometimes he did it by system and without a ball that was too deep, which left him exposed to the reply, to the passing specialists. It was then that he stretched himself to the maximum, flying, and most of the time with success: the volley, with great effort, derived in a spectacular point. Because that was Boris: spectacle. If he played on grass or clay, he was usually the player who ended up with a green or orange back from rolling around. Sometimes, bleeding from scratches or with the traditional “strawberries”.

He was one of the best tennis players of the eighties and nineties and integrated a golden age of Germany together with the extraordinary champion SteffiGraf. Obviously he performed better on fast courts and he had to suffer on clay. But even the slowness of the surface did not change his identity. It was Becker on any court. People knew perfectly well what she was going to see when she attended one of her meetings. In those times, when he collided with the Swedish Stefan Edberg, a tennis player’s delight and also “120%” offensive, they provided games to remember. Several of them were in Wimbledon finals. A delight in the Cathedral.

Becker is a triple Wimbledon champion: an idyll with the cup at the All England
Becker is a triple Wimbledon champion: an idyll with the cup at the All EnglandHulton Deutsch – Hulton Archive

Becker conquered 49 titles in his career, six of them Grand Slam. Three times he lifted the cup at the All England (1985, 1986 and 1989), twice at the Australian Open (1991 and 1996) and the remaining one at the US Open (1989). In total, he appeared in 10 Grand Slam finals. In addition, he won 13 titles of the so-called Masters Series (Masters 1000 today) and won the Masters Tournament on 3 occasions. Twice he won the Davis Cup, he was Olympic gold in Barcelona 1992, number 1 in the world for 12 weeks and got about US $ 25 million in prize money. That’s without counting advertising revenue.

Conflicts did not take long to appear in his life. His first partner, the model Barbara Feltus, black, was one of the most balanced relationships, until he was shipwrecked. They got married in 1993 and there was a big marketing buzz when they posed nude for a cover of “Stern” magazine. It was the beginning of a much broader campaign that spread over time as a message against racism. With Feltus she had two sons: Noah and Elias.

Boris on the attack, a classic
Boris on the attack, a classicKIERAN DOHERTY – X00352

While he was playing, rumors of a busy life off the pitch were exploding on tour. A version even circulated, during a Wimbledon, that in a fleeting relationship with a Russian model Angelika Ermakova, traces of semen had been kept to make it appear that she had had a child with that person. And that this had even unleashed a diplomatic conflict, mentioning the Russian Mafia. The story was later confirmed: Anna Ermakova was her daughter and she had to pay the Russian model about 5 million as compensation. This was Becker’s life. Giving a show on the court and stormy off it.

The divorce with Feltus, which included a sum of about 15 million dollars, properties in Miami and the possession of the children, was the beginning of the disaster and the alterations of his personal life, with a direct influence on his personal life. And the signs of her emotional swings were seen in the game itself and also in the physical alterations.

Becker with model Claudia Schiffer during a golf event in Berlin
Becker with model Claudia Schiffer during a golf event in BerlinAP

His bodily changes were noticeable.. At times he looked tall, strong, unstoppable. At other times of the year, in addition to being slower, he was seen to be swollen, his body and his face. His detractors, who abounded (even in his country), said that he was due to the abusive intake of alcohol, especially beer. They had even invented a nickname for him for those cases: he was “Boris Bieckert”, in game with the beer brand.

Ion Tiriac was coach of Guillermo Vilas and Boris Becker
Ion Tiriac was coach of Guillermo Vilas and Boris BeckerEurope Press

Some time after ending his relationship with Feltus (it was in 2001), Becker had a second marriage with the Dutch Lilly Becker. The new couple met in 2005 and spent 13 years together, nine of them married. In the middle there were several estrangements and reconciliations, until the coexistence did not give for more. Too much turbulence. They separated in 2018 and had a son: Amadeus.

Becker had a close relationship with our William Vilasthe best Argentine tennis player of all time, by virtue of the fact that, with Willy, it was driven by Romanian Ion Tiriac, one of the most respected coaches in the world. A few years ago, during a Roland Garros, Tiriac, a powerful businessman and today a billionaire, told us anecdotes about Vilas and Becker.

About Vilas, he pointed out: “Guillermo was a book, the best player of all time. Because with very limited talent, with enormous work, he managed to win Grand Slams, important titles, a Masters. A great player, a great personality. I did not meet any South American with the personality of Vilas. He worked 35 hours a week just to improve a stroke. No one did or does that.”

When asked if Vilas had been his biggest personal satisfaction as a coach, Tiriac talked about Becker. “Everyone is different. The force in Becker’s blow was none of them, but Boris was different from the others. He was the contestant. you told him ‘Good day’and he told you ‘Good evening’. you told him ‘Serve with more effect’I was telling you ‘Nerd’. you told him ‘You can’t hit the baseline against Jimmy Connors on grass’ and I answered you ‘How not? Connors has no more than me, I have more hits than him’. So, she went, played him in the background, beat him and reproached you: ‘Did you see that I could hit the ground against him? I’m right. And no, he was not right, because he really played 30 minutes more than necessary to reach the same end, he could win in another way. That was Becker, another one who worked a lot in his early days. I say to you: sometimes he would bleed from training because of the way he trained. An unpredictable animal.

Boris Becker becomes the youngest Wimbledon men’s singles champion in 1985

Over time, and once retired from tennis, Becker did not move away from tournaments. First because he was a commentator for the main broadcast networks, like John McEnroe. But he was also always linked as a businessman to numerous firms that kept him as an image.

Awards obtained in his successful career put up for auction by Boris Becker
Awards obtained in his successful career put up for auction by Boris BeckerWyles Hardy and Co.

What happened this Friday, with the prison sentence for two and a half years for having declared bankruptcy when strictly speaking it was not, is not something that attracts attention considering what his life has been. In fact, 20 years ago, he had already had a legal problem when he was declared a tax evader. It was because of an affidavit, when he said that he lived in the Principality of Monaco when he actually lived in Germany. He was released on parole, paying a $500,000 fine.

Sometimes he was shaking to earn points on the net. He indirectly brought the recipe to his personal life and business and in that rough and indescribable terrain, the popcorn this time did not reach its destination. The passing shot of justice took him backwards at the age of 54 and it was inexorable for Boris Becker.