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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Becker 'forced to quit tennis early'
Becker being photographed at the court
Becker said he was baffled by Germany's tax laws
Former tennis champion Boris Becker has told a German court that an investigation into his tax affairs led him to cut short his tennis-playing career.

Mr Becker, who is charged with tax evasion, said intrusive inquiries into his finances affected his concentration on the game and he could not continue.


I couldn't live like that anymore, much less play tennis

Boris Becker
The three times Wimbledon winner admitted making a mistake in failing to declare a residency in Germany to tax officials but denied deliberately cheating paying taxes.

He is accused of failing to pay 1.7 million euros ($1.7m) in tax between 1991 and 1993.

If found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison.

Mr Becker told the court in Munich that the 10-year investigation had been "extremely" brutal and that he felt "great fear" of the investigators.

"I couldn't live like that anymore, much less play tennis," he said.

"Tennis is a psychological sport - I quit the game then, because I couldn't continue like that."

Mr Becker retired from professional tennis in 1999.

Contrite

The former tennis star admitted keeping an apartment in the city of Munich while listing his place of residence in the tax haven of Monaco.


I accept that I am responsible for a mistake that I made 10 years ago

Boris Becker

He said he could not be accused of criminal scheming as the apartment - his sister's loft - was basic and he stayed there only occasionally.

Mr Becker said he "barely" understood Germany's tax laws and said he ignored advice by advisors that retaining the Munich apartment could get him into trouble.

He said he was aware of the risk he was taking at the time and knew he would be punished.

"I accept that I am responsible for a mistake that I made 10 years ago and I know that I have to pay for that," he told the court.

Celebrity status

Boris Becker is one of Germany's biggest sporting heroes, winning six grand-slam tennis titles.

Becker winning Wimbledon in 1985
Becker burst onto the world stage in 1985

He burst onto the scene in 1985, winning his first title on the south London grass courts as an unseeded teenager.

Known as "Boom-Boom" for his powerful serve, he went on to win a total of 49 singles titles, and was briefly ranked world number one in 1991.

He also became a TV celebrity, appearing in chat shows and advertising campaigns.

Since retiring from professional tennis, he has admitted to fathering a child by a Russian model and he later divorced his wife.

As a result his fortune, estimated at 150m euros ($146.5m) during his career, has melted away on child support and divorce payments.

He has now sold his villa in the city of Munich and lives in a hotel.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Charles reports from Frankfurt
"Most Germans have little sympathy for him"
Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters correspondent
"He did not seem like he was a very happy man when he walked out of court"
See also:

23 Oct 02 | Tennis
13 Jul 02 | Europe
14 Jul 02 | Media reports
15 Jan 01 | Europe
07 Feb 01 | Europe
09 Jan 01 | Europe
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