Tennis-From 'Boom Boom' to bust, Becker must now serve time

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Boris Becker's thunderous delivery earned him the nickname 'Boom Boom' as a 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 1985 but on Friday, aged 54 and bust, the German great was told he must serve time in prison.

Three times a champion on the grass courts of south-west London, the man who thrilled tennis fans in the 1980s and 90s appeared in a court of law to receive a two-and-a-half year sentence.

Becker was convicted earlier this month of four charges under Britain's Insolvency Act, including failing to disclose, concealing and removing significant assets following a bankruptcy trial.

Judge Deborah Taylor said the six-times Grand Slam winner had shown no remorse or acceptance of guilt and would have to serve half his sentence behind bars and the remainder on licence.

Becker, who earned $25 million in prize money and many times more in sponsorship during a career that ended in 1999, had been given a suspended jail term and hefty fine for tax evasion by a court in Munich in 2002.

This time there was to be no escape.

The sentence was the latest bombshell in the life of a sporting superstar whose love life and financial problems have generated as many headlines in recent years as his athletic prowess ever did.

Much of his fortune disappeared as a result of his tax problems, while continuing to maintain a lavish lifestyle, some dubious investments and a multi-million dollar divorce settlement with first wife Barbara in 2001.

In 1999 he fathered a child with a Russian model, Angela Ermakova, after a brief sexual encounter in London's Nobu restaurant while his wife was pregnant with their second child.

The polish of his post-playing life as a BBC television tennis commentator, and a spell as coach to world number one Novak Djokovic, contrasted with the ongoing chaos of his personal affairs.

In 2018 he claimed diplomatic immunity from the bankruptcy proceedings by saying he had been appointed sports envoy to the European Union for Central African Republic and had received a passport at an official ceremony.

Becker had never visited the country, whose foreign minister later said the passport was a "clumsy fake" and launched an enquiry.

On court, Becker was simply sensational. In 1985 he became the first German and first unseeded player to win the Wimbledon singles title, defeating South African-turned American Kevin Curren in four sets, as a callow teenager.

In 1986, with bubbling enthusiasm and using his heavy forehand and spectacular diving volleys to good effect, Becker defended his title successfully against scowling rival Ivan Lendl.

The pair played each other 21 times in the 1980s and early 90s, always with an undercurrent of friction.

While Lendl ultimately edged their career rivalry 11-10 it was Becker who won the three Grand Slam finals they contested, with the German once accusing Lendl of not being "mentally tough".

Becker also reached the Wimbledon final in 1988, losing to Sweden's Stefan Edberg. He avenged that loss in a rematch the following year and then lost to the Swede again in the 1990 final.

In 1991 he reached a fourth successive Wimbledon final but lost to compatriot Michael Stich.

Becker also won the U.S. Open in 1989 and the Australian Open in 1991, when he became world number one, and 1996.

He retired with a career tally of 49 singles titles and 15 doubles titles, but clay was always a weakness although he did win the 1992 Olympic men's doubles gold on the surface in Barcelona.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)