Boris Becker was the idol of my youth – today his fate doesn’t even make me sad anymore
With his Wimbledon victory in 1985, Boris Becker triggered a tennis boom in Germany. But with his life after his sports career, the 54-year-old destroyed his reputation. Memoirs of a past fan.
Where were you on July 7th, 1985? For many of my generation, this date is as dramatic as the 1969 Apollo 11 mission is for older generations. What happened that Sunday on Center Court in Wimbledon was almost as incredible to us as Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon .
A 17-year-old German won the most important tennis tournament in the world – and is the youngest Wimbledon winner to date. With his sensational triumph, Boris Becker triggered a huge tennis boom in his home country.
I was 13 at the time and was one of the tens of thousands of young people who traded in their football boots for white sneakers. After school, instead of going to the soccer field, I went straight to the tennis court. There we raised our Becker fists after successful rallies and dived for every ball as if we were like Boris on the lush green of Wimbledon instead of on a splintered cinder pitch.
Boris Becker inspired as long as he played
The love for the Leimen tennis god survived the summer of 85: I remained his fan until his last professional match. It never got boring. Great victories were followed by bitter defeats – Becker lost four of his seven Wimbledon finals. But he always came back. Won a total of six Grand Slam tournaments, won the ATP World Championship three times and the Davis Cup twice for Germany.
Unforgettable how he defeated John McEnroe in 6 hours and 21 minutes in 1987 while also defying the hostile US crowd. The game went down in history as the “Battle of Hartford”. It was games like this where Becker grew to larger than life. He combined an irrepressible will to win with a cool head and playful class – and played his way into our hearts. On a good day nobody could beat him, not even 16,000 booing spectators.
On June 30, 1999, Becker ended his sporting career – the day also marks the slow dying of the love for my idol. Because now the celebrity and public person Boris Becker came to the fore and supplanted the athlete. Little by little, he destroyed much of what he had built up over the previous decade and a half.
The sad life after the sports career
June 30 connects these two lives: in the afternoon he was still on the pitch and tried to ward off the impending defeat in the round of 16 at Wimbledon, in the evening what the tabloid media later called the “broom closet affair” happened: while his wife Barbara was in the hotel room while waiting, Boris got model Angela Ermakova pregnant.
The details of this slip-up were gleefully laid out in all the world’s gazettes. It was just the beginning of many embarrassing reports from the life of the former tennis hero. Two divorces, numerous relationships, engagements and separations followed. In addition, reports about his inability to deal with economic matters up to bankruptcy.
But the worst thing was his silly feud with Oliver Pocher, which culminated in an RTL show in 2013 in which Boris Becker made himself a full horst in front of an audience of millions. At that point at the latest, the low point was reached, since then, as a former fan, I haven’t felt anything at all.
Personally, I feel sorry for Boris Becker that he was unable to make anything of his sporting fame. Nevertheless, the further fate of the 54-year-old leaves me strangely cold: I haven’t felt anything for my idol from back then for a long time.
I would never have dreamed that this would happen one day, on July 7, 1985, when I was young, the sun was shining – and a 17-year-old German was crowned king of the tennis world. I would like to remember him that way. Unfortunately, a second Boris Becker has appeared next to the beaming sports hero: a fat man with fly swatters on his head.