Though Becker has his residence and office in Zug, Switzerland, Wimbledon is his favourite home; this is as close as he can get to the Centre Court turf without laying his head beneath the umpire’s chair. “Living so close by, I’m reminded every day of my history here, and I like that,” said Becker, who has rented the house for just over a year; making him Baron Boris of Wimbledon.
“Right now, I feel as popular in Britain as I do in Germany, and that certainly wasn’t the case when I won Wimbledon at 17. I was German, I looked German, I had a German passport, and there was a bit of history between the two countries, but the British public realised soon enough that I wasn’t what you would think of as a typical German. I do have a sense of humour, and I like England, I like Britain. I like Wimbledon,” Becker said. “I admire and respect the history here, and 25 years after my first victory I spend a lot of time in Wimbledon, which is quite a circle when you think about it.”
Becker could live anywhere, but it is in the SW19 postcode — and so close to the lawns that for the next fortnight he will be able to hear the soft popping of tennis balls being struck — that he feels most at ease. When he strolls around Wimbledon Village, the locals just let him be. Which, as Boris would put it, ‘is quite a circle’, given that his victory here in 1985 meant that it has often felt as though his life had been played out like Sushi’s, in a bowl.
“The residents in Wimbledon are very respectful. I think they may be even a little proud that I’ve made the decision to spend a lot of time here, to be part of the Village and the community. They don’t bother me at all when I go to the supermarket or to the butcher or the local bank. I hardly ever sign autographs when I’m in Wimbledon. I have a different relationship with the people in Wimbledon now that I live here rather than just coming to visit. This is home, right here in Wimbledon.”
Becker, 42, was drawn back to south-west London. “I had a flat on the King’s Road for a long time, as I always liked to come to London, to spend the weekend here and see friends. My wife was living in Chelsea before and the move to Wimbledon wasn’t such a big change for her after all.
“She never went to Wimbledon Centre Court before she met me so I was quite proud to show her for the first time,” said Becker, who married Lilly, his second wife, in St Moritz last summer. Their first child, Amadeus, was born in February. Becker has two more sons, Noah and Elias, from his first marriage, and a daughter, Anna, from a brief relationship.
If Becker wants to play tennis, he uses the All England Club’s indoor courts. Where else? “That’s my practice place when I’m here,” he said. “As a member of the club, I could also go there for cups of tea and sandwiches every afternoon, but I don’t tend to do that. Why would I when my house is just two minutes away?”
It is difficult to believe that it is now a quarter of a century since a strawberry-blond kid from West Germany, someone who used to go to his coach for pocket-money if he wanted a bottle of Coke, hijacked men’s tennis and became Wimbledon’s youngest champion. “In many ways, I remember it like it was yesterday. But then when I go back on the tennis court, it does feel like 25 years ago. The actual tennis player, the one who is 17 years old, I haven’t seen that guy for a long time,” Becker said.
Courtesy of Mark Hodgkinson@Daily Telegraph.