Boris Becker’s startling entry into tennis and the pension plan that went horribly awry

A few weeks ago, bankrupt tennis legend Boris Becker stood in court for being convicted of hiding from his creditors, among other valuable acquisitions, the Wimbledon trophy he won as a 17-year-old. It was a heartbreaking little Becker update to a world that treats even the Lemon & Spoon racing medals from school days as family heirlooms. You could feel his pain, you could understand his attachment to the memories of his glorious past.

Still, there was a sense of inevitability when the former Wimbledon champion was sentenced to two and a half years on Friday for failing to repay a £ 3m loan on his luxury property in Mallorca, Spain.

Those who lived the summer of ’85 would never want the strawberry blonde German boy to part with the golden trophy he won by risking his limb on the sacred but hard-hit English lawns. That day, he played a brand of power tennis that made the then-talented John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors look like former stars from the trek racket era.

Rarely in a sports arena was the restlessness of youth channeled better or its audacity held so very promising. At 54, Becker has not fully aged. His swollen and strained face is a testament to his nervous life, his dangerous connections, the financial mishaps and the costly closet effort.

Becker, like everyone else, needs to face the consequences of his actions, but purely for the magical night, you feel that the law should avoid the trajectory that slips past his trophy cabinet.

Around the time Becker appeared in court to avoid jail time last month, another Wimbledon champion also spread shock and distress in the tennis world. Ash Barty, just 25, announced she no longer had it in her and retired.

There is a thin thread that binds Becker and Barty. Both faced the dazzling spotlight as they were not quite ready. But history shows that the two talented tennis players, with chalk- and cheese-like contrasting personalities and perspectives, reacted differently to the situation.

In his last farewell on instagram, Barty mentioned how the Wimbledon title last year changed her as a person and athlete. “It was my only true dream that I wanted in tennis that really changed my perspective and I just had that gut feeling (about retiring) after Wimbledon and had talked a lot with my team about it.”

If the 2021 Grand Slam on grass triggered a sense of satisfaction in the Queensland player, the Australian Open title a few months ago quenched her thirst forever. For the multi-talented Barty – a few years ago she came to Big Bash after a couple of serious batting sessions – it was time to look for new challenges.

Former tennis player Boris Becker joins Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro on arrival at Southwark Crown Court in London on Friday, April 29, 2022. Becker was previously found guilty of evading his obligation to disclose financial information in order to settle its debt. (AP Photo / Aastair Grant)

So, unlike Becker, did Barty lack the mental strength to keep the Wimbledon crown and play competitive tennis for close to two decades? Or would Barty want more out of his life, not keen on living out of a suitcase or following the hotel-to-stadium routine throughout his youth.

Walking along Becker and Barty’s career paths gives an idea of ​​the changing sporting ecosystem and the priorities of the stars. It also answers a few important questions.

Becker’s 85 Wimbledon was a far more significant milestone in the game’s history than Barty’s 2021 title on grass. The overgrown German boy in tight white shorts had trotted around Wimbledon Center Court as if he were in his living room. He dived on grass to bandage ointment, toppled quickly to get back on his feet, and finished the rally. Becker was someone the tennis world had never seen.

He was the first from the country to win Wimbledon. “German engineering at its best,” was how his coach had famously described him. Over 50,000 Germans had reached Leimen, Becker’s hometown with 10,000, to give him a magnificent welcome.

But Becker had by his side his coach Ion Tiriac, a scary Romanian with a biker mustache and known as the “Brasov Bulldozer” on the track. Years later, Becker remembered the talk he had with him after the Champions Ballet, British morning TV appearances and the call from the German Chancellor. The young Becker listened and absorbed the wisdom of Tiriac. The coach listed the sequence that would follow his success and how he should be ready to face the pitfalls of fame.

It helped that Becker was wired differently. He had a deep philosophical understanding of fame. A few years back, he talked about how everyone wants to be famous without understanding the reason for their quest. “I started playing tennis because I love the game, I loved the competition. The sideshow that happens when you win a big title is more important to people other than you,” he said.

He would say that both the media and the fans – those who define fame – were not important to him. The newspapers, he said, could never imagine the effort he had put into winning, plus he could give his best even in front of an empty centercourt as he loved the game and the competition.

“When I was 18, I was several Grand Slam champion, had money in the bank, was successful, was famous, so why should I go back as 19, 20, 21, 25 and 28? Because I love the sport. If only was for fame, money and fortune, I would not play as a 25-year-old, ”he said.

So when Barty left the game as a 25-year-old, does that mean she loved the game less? No, over time the sensitivity of the sport also changes.

Becker also agrees. “When I played, you live very much in the present, you can not imagine that now. There was no internet, no cell phone. We just had The Times, The Telegraph and The Mail those days. It was a different hype. There were no long press conferences, no big headlines. “

The world has changed. In 2022, quitting early was an act of declaring love for one’s beloved sport. When intrusive attention to personal life, endless corporate commitments, agents obsessed with numbers becomes too overwhelming, what was once a passion can become a task.

Sport can turn into a toxic drain on the first sign of success, with social media turning each epilogue into a title for a claustrophobic anarchist free-for-all opinions. Young athletes exposed to this bombardment will always struggle under the harsh and extreme spotlight that can overwhelm the simple joys of hitting a ball with a racket whose simplicity Becker could fall back on at the time.

Barty and today’s youth are wiser on the back of early fame and have learned to prioritize mental health. Maybe Becker had a longer and brighter career, but Barty had a better retirement plan.

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