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Boris Becker: The rise and fall of tennis legend dubbed ‘Britain’s favourite German’

Boris Becker: The rise and fall of tennis legend dubbed ‘Britain’s favourite German’
‘Boom boom Boris’ enjoyed a fortune as the youngest male Wimbledon champion before he went bust and was jailed

In 1985, tennis legend Boris Becker was an overnight sensation at the tender age of 17 after he became the youngest male player in history to win a Wimbledon final.

His powerful serves earned him the nickname “Boom Boom Boris”, and his successive Wimbledon wins in 1986 and 1989 quickly cemented his reputation as “Britain’s favourite German”.

The former tennis world champion was once worth an estimated £38 million – about £100m in today’s money – that he earned from prize winnings and sponsorships. He went on to coach current tennis star Novak Djokovic after his retirement in 1999.

Becker, now 54, had also turned his hand to a career in poker, tennis punditry, and business.

In an interview in 2012, he said: “I had won so much by [the age of] 22, a number of Wimbledon titles, US Open, Davis Cup, World number one. You look for the next big thing and that isn’t in tennis.”

<p>Boris Becker aged 17 after he won the Wimbledon final </p>

Boris Becker aged 17 after he won the Wimbledon final

But his retirement marked the start of his financial woes. His earnings plunged while he continued living a lavish lifestyle, paying school fees for his children, and sending cash to his ex-wives.

In 2017, he was declared bankrupt by the Bankruptcy and Companies Court in London over an unpaid loan of €4.6m (about £3.5m) – from British private bank Arbuthnot Latham – that he had taken out in 2013 for a property in Mallorca, Spain.

He was also unable to fully repay £1.2m, with a 25 per cent interest rate, that he borrowed in 2014 from British businessman John Caudwell, who founded Phones 4u.

Earlier this year, the six-time Grand Slam champion told a jury at Southwark Crown Court that he was “shocked” and “embarrassed” when he was declared bankrupt.

<p>Becker with his family after winning the men’s Wimbledon final in 1985 </p>

Becker with his family after winning the men’s Wimbledon final in 1985

During the bankruptcy trial, the court also heard he owed Swiss authorities five million francs (about £4m) and separately just under €1m (more than £800,000) in liabilities over a 2002 conviction for tax evasion and attempted tax evasion in Germany.

Becker was accused of hiding assets and transactions worth more than £4.5m – including a number of trophies, such as the one he won during the 1985 match that had catapulted him to stardom.

Becker denied knowing the whereabouts of the memorabilia. He was acquitted of 20 charges, including nine counts of failing to hand over the trophies and medals from his tennis career.

But, on 8 April 2022, he was convicted of four charges – including removal of property, two counts of failing to disclose estate and concealing debt.

He was found guilty of transferring £356,000 to nine recipients, including the accounts of his ex-wife Barbara and estranged wife Sharlely ‘Lilly’ Becker.

Becker was also convicted of failing to declare a property in Germany, hiding a bank loan of almost £700,000, and his shares in a tech firm.

<p>Becker with girlfriend Lillian de Carvalho and son Noah outside Southwark Crown Court</p>

Becker with girlfriend Lillian de Carvalho and son Noah outside Southwark Crown Court

On Friday, he was jailed for two years, six months for those crimes.

Becker said bad publicity had damaged his brand and that made it difficult for him to make enough money to pay his debts.

His barrister Jonathan Laidlaw QC said at the time of his bankruptcy that Becker was too “trusting and reliant” on his advisers.

Previously, Becker told a jury his income “reduced dramatically” after his retirement and said his career earnings were swallowed up by an expensive divorce in 2001 from his first wife Barbara, child maintenance payments, and “expensive lifestyle commitments”, including his £22,000-a-month rented house in Wimbledon, south-west London.

<p>Becker said he was ‘embarassed’ when he was declared bankrupt </p>

Becker said he was ‘embarassed’ when he was declared bankrupt

He said he also had to support his daughter Anna Ermakova and her mother Angela Ermakova, in a deal which included a £2.5m Chelsea flat.

Becker’s daughter was conceived during his infamous encounter with Russian model Ms Ermakova in a broom cupboard at upmarket London restaurant Nobu in 1999.

Ms Ermakova initially launched a paternity lawsuit against the player but he eventually accepted he was the child’s father and agreed to pay a “generous” financial settlement.

Speaking of his financial downfall, he told jurors his image was no longer good and “brand Becker” was not regarded as highly as it once was as companies “didn’t want to be associated with a brand that was criticized in the media”.

“(It is) very difficult when you are bankrupt and in the headlines every week for it. (It is) very difficult to make a lot of money with my name,” he said.