Boris Becker turned professional at the age of 16 and became an overnight star just one year later on July 7, 1985, when he, as an unseeded teenager, defeated the South Africa’s Kevin Curren to win the Wimbledon men’s singles final. He became the youngest Grand Slam champion ever at 17 years and 227 days, and the first German to win the Championships.

The following year, he showed that it was not a fluke by beating Ivan Lendl to defend his title and he won it a third time in 1989 against Sweden’s Stefan Edberg. He also reached the final on four other occasions. The success led to him calling the All England Club’s Centre Court his “living room” and the stodgy crowds loved him for it.


Boris Becker at Wimbledon:

1984: Lost in third round to Bill Scanlon

1985: Defeated Kevin Curren to win title.

1986: Defeated Ivan Lendl to win title.

1987: Lost in second round to Peter Doohan.

1988: Lost final to Stefan Edberg.

1989: Defeated Stefan Edberg to win title.

1990: Lost final to Stefan Edberg.

1991: Lost final to Michael Stich.

1992: Lost in quarterfinals to Andre Agassi.

1993: Lost in semifinals to Pete Sampras.

1994: Lost in semifinals to Goran Ivanisevic.

1995: Lost final to Pete Sampras.

1996: Lost (retired) in third round to Neville Godwin.

1997: Lost in quarterfinals to Pete Sampras.

But what made Becker so good at Wimbledon?

For starters, there was his serve – fast, powerful, aggressive and the kind that earned him nicknames like ‘Boom Boom’, ‘Der Bomber’ and ‘Baron von Slam’. The rocking motion and then boom. It started with the serve, the effect of which was multiplied several times on the fast grass courts, but it often finished with a volley.

Becker didn’t have a negative bone in his body and he was always on the attack. He followed up the big serve by coming to the net in a manner that has seemingly gone extinct now. It wasn’t a tactic. It was the only tactic. Players these days use the serve and volley tactic to change things up. For Becker, staying back was changing things up but even that was done rarely.

The German would charge up to the net and then let his athleticism take care of the rest. He had great hands at the net and just when it looked like he couldn’t get to the groundstroke, he would pull out another surprise.


The dive volley was all Becker. No one else did it as often and he would even bring it out on hard courts. It was one of the shots that became his trademark. The ball would look like it was just out of reach and then suddenly the German would launch himself and get it back. Sometimes, he would even do it twice in one rally. When on the court, he was all in... all the time.

Perhaps because he did it so often, it stopped looking like a desperate attempt and started looking like something the German could control. To this day, when someone hits a dive volley, the commentators will almost invariably mention Becker.


The bond he formed with the crowd was a wonderful one too. In 1995, when Pete Sampras beat him in the Wimbledon final, Becker was induced by the crowd to jog a lap around the court so that spectators might lavish applause on him.

He loved the crowd and they loved him. By 1995, his body was plagued by injuries and he wasn’t able to play the kind of tennis that everyone expected of him but his run to the Wimbledon final was a special one.

A couple of years later, he announced that he had played his final Grand Slam after another loss to Sampras. Becker had kept his decision to himself, but told the American as they shook hands at the net after the quarter-final match.

“I walked back to my chair, kind of stunned that this is it for him,” Sampras had then said. “Wimbledon and Boris went together. This is where he made his mark as a 17-year-old, and it was like his living room out there. He’s always been a class act. I feel honored that I was his last match.”

For Becker, the decision came down to a very simple thing.

“I’m the type of guy who goes into a tournament and who likes to have a chance to win it. I feel that is not possible for me anymore in Grand Slams,” he had said.

And there was literally no better place for him to say goodbye.