LONDON – Tennis legend Boris Becker was born in Germany, but he was born again on the grass courts of Wimbledon.
“I call the seventh of July my second birthday,” Becker said of the day he won the 1985 Wimbledon final and, at 17, became the youngest man ever to win the title. “There was a life before that – I was born and raised in West Germany – and there was a life after that.”
Becker spoke at a press conference as an ambassador for VisitBritain, a public relations campaign promoting tourism in Great Britain, and talked extensively about his experiences playing at Wimbledon and in the Olympics.
This year, Becker carried the Olympic torch in the relay.
“I really wanted to run well,” he said, “so I had my ankles taped and I warmed up before as if I was going to a real competition. I was so excited.”
After cresting a hill and suddenly being surrounded by thousands of people, the magnitude of the moment sunk in.
“That’s when you really get into the mood of the Olympics (and) think about, ‘Wow, this actually much bigger than tennis or sports. This is important for everybody,’” he said, adding “it was almost a life-changing experience.”
Like many people, Becker enjoys seeing low-profile sports during the Olympics, so much so that it can become a little distracting.
“I usually wouldn’t watch rowing, but it was so exciting and then the coverage was so good that you’re fixed on the TV and you’re watching it. At 9 in the morning, you’re watching the rowing competition where now you think, ‘I’ve got different things to do.’”
Becker also talked about what it was like to partner with then-rival Michael Stich to win the gold in doubles at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
“To say the least, we were not good friends,” he said, “but we both lost early in singles and we found an agreement that, ‘Let’s stick together, because with you I’m better and I think you’re better with me,’ so we ended up winning the gold medal … We’ve managed to feel a good friendship ever since, thanks to the Olympics.”
Because of injuries, Becker hasn’t been able to play much tennis recently, but he has found a way to relive the glory with his children.
“We watch the Olympics every morning. It is the first thing we do and sometimes I parade my gold medal around, just to show, ‘Give your father a bit of respect, I won the gold medal,’” he said, laughing.