Boris Becker has been standing on a tennis court for the better part of 50 years so it made perfect sense Novak Djokovic announced that the former world No. 1 would be taking over as his coach in 2013.
Now, Becker is back where his world renowned tennis career caught fire; Wimbledon. But it hasn’t been an easy return. The German-born Becker has faced cheating accusations as Djokovic has found early-tournament success.
It’s just the latest footnote in a long line of fascinating on and off court moments for Becker who has done everything from publish his own autobiography to winning half a dozen major championships and even find a post-tennis career on the World Poker Tour.
Here’s what you need to know about the long-time pro and first-time coach:
1. Becker Became Novak Djokovic’s Coach in 2013
Novak Djokovic announced that Becker would become his head coach in December 2013, making the official announcement on his website. Becker released a statement following the move:
I am proud Novak invited me to become his Head Coach. I will do my best to help him reach his goals, and I am sure we can achieve great things together.
The appointment was Becker’s first coaching job after nearly two decades of pro tennis dominance. He also gave up his job as a BBC commentator to focus on his role as Djokovic’s coach and to avoid any conflict of interest.
2. He & Djokovic Have Drawn Criticism for In-Match Coaching
After Djokovic breezed through his opening match at Wimbledon, the defending champ had to do a different kind of defending when it came to his coach. It didn’t take long for rumors to start circulating that Becker had been coaching Djokovic during the match; something that is prohibited at Wimbledon.
The world No. 1 did not take kindly to those reports, telling media after his opening match:
I’m just trying to figure out what you want to achieve with this story. I don’t understand what you really want. Do you want to say I’m cheating, my team? I’m really trying to figure out what’s behind this. I mean, are you asking only me or are you asking other players, as well?
Djokovic continued by saying that there are ways of communicating with his coach, or anyone else in the stands, during the matches but made sure to point out that action was well within the tournament’s rules. Becker told BCC Radio that Djokovic will look up at him in the stands following a play or certain moment, looking for reassurance.
Becker had previously admitted that he does try to communicate with Djokovic during a January interview, telling Irish Times that the two had used hand signals to communicate tactics during play.
3. Becker Was the Youngest Person to Win the Wimbledon Men’s Championship at 17
Becker made history in 1985, becoming the youngest player to win the Wimbledon title at 17 years old. He also was the first unseeded player and the first German competitor to win the prestigious title.
Becker defeated Kevin Curren in four sets (6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4) and, since that first match, the two have met on numerous occasion. Curren told The Guardian:
He always has a little dig at me about it. But it’s been a very special part of my life and the greatest tournament in tennis. I’m very grateful for the experiences I’ve had.
Of course, that was just the start of Becker’s on-court dominance. He went on to win two more Wimbledon titles as well as the 1989 US Open and was named Play of the Year by the ATP Tour. He finished 1991 ranked No. 1 in the world and, over the course of his career, won 49 singles titles as well as singles titles in 14 different countries.
4. After Retiring He Opened Völkl Inc. & Competed on the World Poker Tour
The world was, essentially, Becker’s oyster when he announced his retirement from tennis in 1999. He also wanted to get as far away, professionally, from the game as possible. He told The Cambridge Student:
I had won so much by 22, a number of Wimbledon titles, US Open, Davis Cup, World number one. You look for the next big thing and that isn’t in tennis. There would have been many possibilities for me to play on the senior’s tour, and just work in the field of tennis as a commentator or journalist but I just wanted to get away and do something that had nothing to do with tennis.
So, Becker went into business. Since 2000, he has been the principal owner of Völkl Inc. a tennis racket and clothing manufacturer. He also published his autobiography in 2003 and was a commentator for the BBC at Wimbledon.
Although is professional life was thriving post-tennis, there was still that streak of competition in him and a strong desire to find an outlet. He found that outlet in the form of high-stakes poker. Becker has appeared on the European Poker Tour and the World Poker Tour and, by the end of 2013, had won more than €90,000 in total earnings.
5. Becker is Married to Dutch Model Sharlely ‘Lilly’ Kerssenberg
While appearing on the German talk show “Wetten, dass…?” Becker announced that he and Dutch model Lilly Kerssenberg were going to be married. It was Becker’s second marriage and third engagement. He had previously been married to Barbara Feltus and the pair had two sons.
Becker and Kerssenberg welcomed their first child, a son named Amadeus, in February 2010. Lilly, who now goes by Lilly Becker, appeared on the German version of “Dancing With the Stars” last year and Becker was a frequent audience member.