Tue, Nov 11, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Becker bares all in autobiography

REUTERS , Berlin

Former German tennis player Boris Becker was addicted to pills and alcohol, nearly slept through a Wimbledon final, cheated his wife and tax authorities, had a costly divorce and almost went to jail.

Becker, who was recently expelled from the US after spending a day in an airport detention cell because as an "ex-convict" he lacked a US entry visa, has done everything possible to destroy his name as a German hero.

In a tell-all autobiography entitled Wait a second, stay a while that was being published yesterday, Becker has emptied his life on to 320 pages that will surely become a best-seller.

It will also likely give the three-times Wimbledon champion two things he now craves as desperately as the sleeping pills and whisky he was hooked on as a player -- money and limelight.

"I wanted to give everyone who wants to judge me the chance to read how it really was," Becker, 35, said in an interview with Germany's ZDF television on Saturday, one of many public appearances he has used to publicize his book.

"There are a lot of books out there on the market that are filled with things that are not accurate," he added. "I thought it was time to set the record straight about my life. It wasn't always good. The way to the top is brutal. But I'd do it the same all over again because I'm a fighter and love a challenge."

Critics have sniffed that the book, being published in 50 countries, is needed to pay for his tax evasion bill and support for his two sons by his ex-wife and daughter by his ex-lover.

Becker's spectacular Wimbledon victories, beginning in 1985, triggered a German tennis boom and a wave of unparalleled national pride.

Becker had six grand slam titles to his name when he retired for the second time four years ago. He also collected an estimated 150 million euros in his career.

But his post-career antics have sullied the once-towering reputation and provided late-night comedians and taxi drivers with a rich harvest of joke material.

Becker has had a string of failed businesses, his marriage fell apart in a messy divorce, he fathered a love child in a trendy London restaurant, had a public fling with a rap singer and a number of broken relationships.

He escaped jail last year when a Munich court convicted him of evading tax and gave him a two-year suspended sentence. He was fined 600,000 euros and paid US$3 million in back taxes. Prosecutors said he claimed his residence was in Monaco, a tax haven, when he was living in Munich.

"I felt the ground moving beneath my feet," Becker says of the moment he heard the state prosecutor in court advocating jail. "I felt something inside me collapsing."

Becker compared his showdown in court to a big tennis match and admitted sobbing in his car after "winning" by avoiding jail.

"The state prosecutor tried to take my freedom from me," Becker said. "I don't have anything against the man. The insane thing was he was trying to throw me in jail and I was paying for him to do that with my tax money."

Becker also offers his philosophy on women.

"I'm not especially wealthy, not especially attractive, I'm no Adonis and my masculinity is certainly not over-dimensional but that doesn't seem to bother women," he said.

Becker also describes his addiction to pills and alcohol.

"Sleeping pills were my problem," he wrote, adding that he started taking them in 1987 and did not kick the habit until 1992.

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