There’s something about athletes achieving great levels as teenagers, and watching them progress into middle age is especially jarring.
The sacrifice of life replaces the vitality of youth. Punch overtakes a once-sculpted physique. In the most unfortunate cases, bad decisions in the winning year, years later, or both lead to unimaginable existence when life brings championship glory and the allure that comes with it. .
When Boris Becker, 17-year-old Wimbledon singles champion, 54-year-old incarcerated in a British prison and now 55-year-old free man, appeared on his laptop screen for his first interview with The New York Times, This came to mind. He was released from prison late last year. Becker served eight months of a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for concealing and transferring money and assets during his bankruptcy proceedings.He was convicted of tax evasion in Germany in 2002. I was.
Now he wants it all behind him and thinks he can start reclaiming the better parts of his life before he was imprisoned. I’m doing what retired tennis greats of a certain age typically do: commentating on TV or starting work as a temporary coach. and adviser to young players. Becker, his six-time Grand Slam winner, has a sadly unique yet valuable perspective on the perils and pitfalls of his star life in modern tennis.
“I now have a little bit of wisdom about what to do and what not to do,” he said.
Gone are the prison uniforms, replaced by well-tailored blue suits. Sitting in front of the camera in Dubai, where he traveled for business meetings and interviews, Becker was noticeably thinner than before his imprisonment, but his blue eyes were bright and hopeful again…a year ago.
Becker’s rise and fall are explored in a new two-part documentary, Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker, by Alex Gibney and John Battsek. Becker participates in and promotes the series. The series premieres on his Apple TV+ on Friday, but unlike many recent celebrity documentaries, “Boom Boom” is a vanity project executived by a member of the subject matter and management team. is not. Producers, crafting stories and profiting from their financial success.
That’s not the way Gibney (“Enron,” “The Armstrong Lies,” “Going Clear”) and Batzek (“Looking for Sugarman,” “One Day in September”). Nor is it something Becker, who has always worked his way on and off the tennis court, with sometimes disastrous results, was interested in.
“If you’re a co-producer, you’re going to cut corners. You probably won’t show yourself how the outside world sees you,” Becker said. It shows you in a much better light than you. And for me, being honest has always been important.”
The result is a nude portrait of a player who reached the pinnacle of his sport as a teenager and reached the pinnacle of celebrity in his native Germany. His seemingly perfect marriage to a black woman, Barbara Feltas, marked an inflection point in race relations in Germany (the marriage ended in divorce eight years later).
But after retirement, Becker’s life degenerated into a sordid tale of philanthropy, failed business ventures, bankruptcies, tabloid scandals, and prison time. In the process, he coached world No. 1 Novak Djokovic for nearly three years, during one of the most successful periods of his career.
Writer-director Gibney, a self-described “tennis freak,” said he was drawn to the footage from the 1991 documentary. Becker said it would focus his mind.
“It’s not a very good plan in real life, and it’s not really a great plan for tennis,” Gibney said.
Producer Batzek said he first approached Becker about making the documentary in 2018, before Becker’s bankruptcy escalated into a conviction. A few days before the sentencing, Becker, who was overweight and scared, tried to make a statement about what he expected to happen for the first time in years.
“His biggest mistake was mistakenly thinking that Swagger, who has supported him in every way, could get through a sticky situation when it came to his finances,” Batzek said of Becker. You have to be smart enough to know that you can’t get through this.”
Becker was released from prison early under the Expedited Deportation Program for Foreigners, but not before what he described as a difficult eight months in two prisons.
“It’s very difficult, especially with the life I was born into,” he said.
The man who once ruled Wimbledon’s hallowed center court was kept in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day during his first few weeks in prison, only allowed out for lunch and dinner, showers and short periods outdoors. rice field.
When Becker nearly retired from tennis in his early twenties, he spent hours at night in his hotel room writing in his diary. Likewise, the prison isolation gave him enough time to consider where his life had gone wrong. He remembered many bad choices, including getting pregnant and making a series of unsuccessful investments. But he also thought about the great moments in his career, and all the lofty luxuries his success had afforded him.
He said he feared for his safety in prison but checked his ego and joined a group to protect him.
“There is an ethical code that says you shouldn’t talk about prison outside,” he said. “I give prisoners too much respect.”
He knows his life didn’t have to go this way and he should have spent more days playing, locked up in his office, familiar with all the paperwork he signed, not on the beach or on the tennis court. I know that
And when he retired, he said he wasn’t prepared for the shock of being told he was old at 35 and having to start a second career from scratch. I was.
But now he’s starting over again. Eurosport hired him as a commentator for the Australian Open. He expects some of his other partners and employers to return. For the first time, he keeps his goals small.
“I’m kind of in the late summer or fall of my life, so I want to get serious about the next 25 years,” he said. “Looking back at my life in prison, looking back at my professional life as a player, as a coach, as a commentator. You want to learn from the experience, you want to improve some of the things you started out with. is.”