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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Becker faces public trial

Boris Becker has never been one to blend into the background.

Since rising to prominence in 1985, the German's career, and personal life, has been punctuated by the most dramatic peaks and troughs.

That he arrived at court to face his trial on tax evasion charges in a striking silver tie should come as no surprise.

Boris Becker
Becker was just 17 when he rose to fame

Becker is a superstar in Germany, his every move followed with the same scrutiny as David Beckham in England.

And like Beckham, news of Becker's personal life is devoured with as much fervour as his sporting achievements.

But unlike England's football captain, more than a few skeletons have emerged from Becker's closet.

The German rocketed to fame as a fresh-faced 17-year-old - winning Wimbledon as an unseeded unknown in 1985, the youngest ever men's champion.

Far from a one-hit wonder, Becker's bucaneering style of power-serving and breathtaking net play took him to two further titles at the All England Club and a total of 49 tournament triumphs.

His marriage in 1994 to Barbara Feltus, a black singer and model, saw him established as a symbol of Germany's bright new dawn and they were almost universally admired for their stance against racism.

But the arrival of two sons and the prospect of stability was never likely to appeal to a man who was used to taking risks.

Boris Becker and Barbara Feltus
Becker and his wife were divorced in 2001

Retiring from the tennis scene in 1999, he refused to fade away, his name simply moving from the back pages to the front.

After losing his last match at Wimbledon to Patrick Rafter, he embarked on a night of drinking which would culminate in what he later described as "five seconds that will haunt me for the rest of my life".

An encounter with a Russian model in the broom cupboard of a London restaurant resulted in the birth of his third child and a court case which saw him pay out a reported $2.8m to the mother.

Rumours of that fling and a further affair with a German rap star dominated the country's newspapers and Becker's marriage crumbled under the strain.

In 2001, Becker agreed to a multi-million-dollar settlement with Feltus and Germany's most high-profile celebrity couple were no longer.

Business failings

Meanwhile, Becker's business acumen, as well as his life choices, was called into question.

He was the principal stockholder in Sportgate, a sports news portal which filed for insolvency after only 10 months.

Just two weeks after it emerged he was being investigated for tax fraud came an accusation from the head of a struggling Internet group that he had withheld a promised $1.5m.

And he has now been found guilty of failing to pay millions of dollars in tax during the early 1990s, telling the court in mitigation that "the only thing I had on my mind was tennis, and sometimes girls."

Becker remains a national hero in Germany for his sporting achievements, but any more troughs in his rocky personal life and his credibility will be all but eroded.

See also:

04 Oct 02 | Tennis
19 Nov 01 | Tennis
15 Jan 01 | Europe
03 Feb 01 | Tennis
06 Dec 00 | Tennis
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