With six Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal to his name, Boris Becker is one of the greatest players of all time. He is the youngest ever Wimbledon singles champion, at 17 years of age. Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2003, Becker was widely renowned as one of the pioneers of power tennis.
The teenage sensation
Born in Leimen, Germany, on the 22nd of November 1967. Becker turned pro at the age of 17 in 1984. The next year he won his first singles title at Queen’s Club. That same year saw him shock the world, when he became the first unseeded player ever, to win Wimbledon, beating Kevin Curren in four sets. He also became the youngest ever winner of the Cincinnati Masters tournament. He repeated his Wimbledon success the following year, beating Ivan Lendl in the final.
The Golden years
Becker reached the Wimbledon finals once again in 1988, but lost to Stefan Edberg. These two players then went on to form one of tennis’ greatest rivalries. Meanwhile, Becker also helped West Germany win its first Davis Cup in 1988 and finished that year beating Ivan Lendl to win the Tennis Masters Cup. In 1989, Becker reached his first French Open semi-final, losing to Stefan Edberg. He gained his revenge by beating Edberg in the Wimbledon finals that year and later claimed his first US Open title, defeating Lendl in the final. The success continued as part of a team, with the West German side again picking up the Davis Cup. However, Edberg remained a tough proposition and, the following year, Becker fell foul of him at Wimbledon in the final, their third consecutive meeting at the tournament.
In 1991, Becker won his first Australian Open, beating Ivan Lendl. The win also gave him the world number one ranking, which he held for 12 weeks. He made it to yet another Wimbledon final that year, but lost to German compatriot Michael Stich. The duo coincidentally went on to fulfill the unique achievement of a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics in the doubles competition.
At this stage in his career Becker was facing stiff opposition from younger players like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang. In his seventh Wimbledon final in 1995, he lost to Pete Sampras. His final Grand Slam win came in 1996 at the Australian Open, when he beat Michael Chang in the final. Becker lost to Sampras in the Wimbledon quarter final in 1997. It was a significant moment in Wimbledon history, the baton being passed from one legend to another. Becker continued playing sporadically for a further two seasons before retiring from professional tennis in June, 1999.
Boris Becker was a right handed player, with a classic technique. He played a single handed backhand. His serve was his greatest weapon, earning him the nickname ‘Boom Boom’ Becker. His aggressive style of play constantly put pressure on his opponents. He also had a heavy hitting forehand. His quick hands at net made his volleys deadly.
Becker also had an excellent service return, where he would take the ball early and give his opponent hardly any time to react. He was well known for his athleticism; many classic tennis videos feature points with Boris Becker making his trademark dives to hit the most incredible volleys.
Becker also wore his heart on his sleeve. He would regularly have angry outbursts and smash his racquet. His style of play best suited fast surfaces such as indoor and grass courts. Although he made three French Open semi-finals, he never won a clay court tournament at a professional level.
Life outside tennis
In 1993, Becker married Barbera Feltus. They had two children, Noah and Elias. Barbera was of African-American heritage and the couple were iconic in their stance against racism and racial intolerance. The couple were also known for posing nude for the German magazine, Stern. Their relationship came to an end in January 2001. Barbera Feltus was awarded a U.S.$14.4 million settlement, along with custody of Noah and Elias Becker. The pre-trial legal proceedings were even broadcast in Germany. Later, DNA tests revealed that Boris Becker had fathered another child, Anna, with Angela Ermenkova, a waitress he had met.
In October 2002, Becker was involved in another scandal, being charged for tax evasion for incorrectly stating he lived in Monte Carlo between 1991 and 1993 when in fact he was living in Germany. He was ordered to pay over half a million dollars in fines.
Since 2005, he has taken part in the British sports quiz, They Think It’s All Over, and regularly features as a commentator at Wimbledon. Becker is also a keen supporter of football clubs Bayern Munich and Chelsea FC. He is the owner of the main division of tennis clothes and racquet maker, Volkl Inc. He is also a regular participant in the World Team Tennis competitions.
- Becker has won a total of 6 Grand Slams including 3 Wimbledon, 2 Australian Open and 1 US Open title.
- He was a runner-up at Wimbledon 4 times
- He has won 49 singles titles and 15 doubles titles
- He has won 3 Tennis Masters Cup titles in 1988,1992 and 1995 and the Grand Slam Cup in 1996.
- He is the joint record holder of 4 Queen’s Club singles titles.
- He has won US$ 25,080,956 in career prize money.
- He has a career record of 713 wins to 214 losses.
- He was involved in one of the longest matches in tennis history, beating John McEnroe in 6 hours and 39 minutes 4-6, 15-13, 8-10, 6-2, 6-2.
When you are thrown onto the stage at 17 in such an enormous way, it becomes living on the edge because every step you take, every word you speak, every action you do becomes headline news. And it became, for me, life or death.
Girls had never been important. I’d had a girlfriend or two and had liked them a lot but it wasn’t love, because my first love was tennis.
Before, I wouldn’t have sacrificed anything for tennis but when I met Barbara it was different. I would have sacrificed tennis for Barbara.
All children cry when they lose. But Boris’s crying was terrible. He ranted, tore his shirt from his body, threw things around the changing room. Most children cry because they are sorry for themselves. Boris cried because he hated himself. – Günther Bosch, German national coach.