Class of 2003
World No. 1 (1991)
Grand Slam Results
6-time major champion and 4-time finalist
Overall: 967- 350
Gold Medal in Men’s Doubles at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games
Member of the German Davis Cup Team 1985-1989, 1991-1992, 1995-1999
Member of the German Championship Davis Cup Teams 1988, 1989
Overall Record 54-12
Singles Record 38-3
Doubles Record 16-9
Watching Boris Becker play tennis was akin to witnessing a trapeze-group perform their high-wire act: He attacked the game horizontally – diving, lunging, and flying through the air with reckless abandon – and often with disregard as to how it would affect his body when he landed. His game had characteristics of a gymnast as well – power, balance, agility, precision, and mobility. His explosive game was coiled from a big and strong 6-foot-3, 180 pound frame, which magnified his athleticism.
Becker arrived on the professional tour in 1984 with little fanfare except premier advisors in his coach Gunther Bosch and manager Ion Ţiriac. But within a year, he’d become a household name. At Wimbledon in 1985, the redhead from Germany became the youngest male major champion in history at age 17 years, 7 months (a record later broken by Michael Chang at the 1989 French Open), defeating American Kevin Curren, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. Becker arrived at Wimbledon ranked No. 20 by the ATP, but was unseeded (only the top 16 players drew seeds), thus becoming the first unseeded champion in history and perhaps most importantly, the first ever German men’s titlist. Compatriot Gottfried von Cramm was a finalist in 1935, 1936, and 1937, but couldn’t seal the deal. When Becker won, his celebrity in Germany reached frenetic heights.
Sports Illustrated featured him on the July 15, 1985 cover with the headline, Das Wunderkind. “He played like it was the first round,” Curren told the magazine about competing against the loose and carefree Becker.
Becker would win six major singles titles in a 16-year career that earned him 49 championships and a tidy $25,080,956 in tour money. His major triumph in 1985 was most memorable, though he successfully defended his title in 1986 with a slick straight sets upset victory over No. 1 seed Ivan Lendl, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. The difference between the two years was considerable. In 1985, Becker was an “unknown outsider” as the BBC called him and not worthy of a seeding. In 1986, he rose to a No. 4 seed and was hardly unknown.
Against No. 8 Curren in 1985, Becker needed 3 hours and 18 minutes to power his way to an unlikely championship. His blistering serve produced 21 aces and he wore out the grass with his headlong dives at net – and on the baseline – playing half a set with a shirt soiled in dirt as a badge of effort. After the match, Becker told the media, “I’m going on court to win, to fight, to do what I can.” He spoke the truth. His third and fourth round matches were monstrous five-set affairs, as was his semifinal victory over No. 5 Anders Jarryd of Sweden.
Becker began playing tennis at age 8 and occasionally practiced with compatriot and the biggest star in German tennis history, Steffi Graf. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade to train with the West German Tennis Federation. At 16 he turned professional and his game wasn’t hard to scout: He was going to launch a big, booming serve, and attack the net. He had hefty, stinging, and powerful volleys, an accessory to his serve. He’d pound a volley and on the slight chance one was returned, acrobatic play at net ensued, complete with dives, rolls, tumbles, and leaps. Becker would try and crush his service return and go from defense to offense instantaneously. A winning shot brought his trademark fist pump and Becker often energized himself by shouting encouragement that intensified his matches.
The fast lawn at Wimbledon was made for his game. In a 10-year span, he appeared as a finalist on Center Court seven times, winning his third title in 1989, a convincing straight-set victory over Stefan Edberg, 6-0, 7-6, 6-4. His semifinal victory over Lendl, 7-5, 6-7, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, became a Wimbledon classic, played in 4 hours and 1 minute, the second longest semi in history. Becker was a finalist in 1988 (losing to Edberg 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2) in 1990 (Edberg, 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4), in 1991 (losing to Michael Stich, 6-4, 7-6, 6-4) and in 1995 (losing to Pete Sampras, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2). He compiled an impressive 71-12 record at Wimbledon.
Becker’s chief rivals during his heyday were Edberg and Lendl. Against Edberg, Becker led the head-to-head series 25-10, including three victories in the Davis Cup, but Edberg won three of four matches in major finals.
Becker earned his first non-Wimbledon major singles title at the 1989 US Open, arriving as the No. 2 seed, and defeated No. 1 Lendl in yet another marathon thriller, 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6, his second major victory over his longtime foe. With victories at Wimbledon and the US Open, 1989 was clearly Becker’s best year on tour, as he compiled a 64-8 match record. Becker’s third major at Lendl’s expense came at the 1991 Australian, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. All-time, Lendl held an 11-10 margin over Becker, but no victories came in the majors. Lendl defeated Becker at the 1985 Masters in New York City, but Becker ousted Lendl in the same event final in 1988. Becker won the Masters twice more, both played in Frankfurt, Germany, defeating Jim Courier, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 in 1992 and Chang in 1995, 7-6, 6-0, 7-6.
Becker’s final major title after a five-year drought came in 1996 when he captured his second Australian Open championship with a 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 victory over Chang. Becker much preferred fast surfaces and never won a title on clay, though he did advance to the French Open semifinals in 1987, 1989, and 1991. Interestingly, Becker won an Olympic Gold Medal in doubles competition alongside compatriot Stich at the 1992 Barcelona Games, which were played on clay. He won 15 tour titles in doubles.
For a player who wasn’t particularly known for grinding it out on the baseline, Becker adapted his game when necessary. As a Davis Cup member for Germany (1985-1989, 1991, 1992, 1995-1999), he led his team to back-to-back championships in 1988 and 1989. He won 22 consecutive matches, second longest in history to Björn Borg’s 33. In 1987, Becker played one of the longest matches in tennis and Davis Cup history, defeating John McEnroe, 4-6, 15-13, 8-10, 6-2, 6-2, in 6 hours and 22 minutes.
Becker was ranked in the world Top Ten 11 times in 16 years, rising to No. 1 briefly on January 28, 1991 and No. 2 three times (1986, 1989, 1990). He won 80.3 percent of his major singles matches, ranking among the ten best in history.
Becker’s lengthy career came to a close in 1998. When his game began to slip, he knew the time was right to move onto other facets of his life. In 2003, Becker put his career and expectations in perspective, saying, “One thing I know is that the world will not allow me to just play tennis. It will not allow me to be No. 15 in the world. So I do it right or I don’t do it at all.”
Post-playing days, Becker formed his own racquet and apparel manufacturing company, worked with the BBC as an analyst on Wimbledon coverage, and became a proficient poker player, competing in both the European and World Poker Tours. Becker was Novak Djokovic's coach from 2014-2016. With Becker in tow, Djokovic has added to his major-win tally, telling Dubai-based Zee News in February 2015, “I constantly learn something new from him from a psychological point of view, mostly because he had been in these situations before. He understands what I go through, the challenges that I face, the obstacles that I need to overcome to win big titles and be number one in the world, because he was there.” Becker helped Djokovic win six major titles.
TENNIS Magazine ranked Becker No. 18 in its list of the 40 Greatest Players in the magazine’s 40-years history. In 2004, Becker released his autobiography, The Player.
Australian Open: W 1991, 1996
French Open: SF 1987, 1989, 1991
Wimbledon: W 1985, 1986, 1989
US Open: W 1989
Australian Open: QF 1985