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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Boris Becker: ‘Whoever says that prison is easy is a liar’

He and Lilly married in 2009 and swiftly had Amadeus, moving into a £22,000-a-month rented mansion in Wimbledon, in addition to the 12-bedroom villa he owned in Mallorca. They separated in 2018, but are still not legally divorced, which must allow his accountant to sleep a little easier.

To everybody’s credit, the kids are more than all right. Noah, a charismatic artist who arrives with Lilian at the premiere later, lives in Berlin. Elias studies film at NYU. Anna has just finished a BA in modern art and is spending her ‘gap moment’ doing the German version of Strictly Come Dancing. And Amadeus is at school in London. Becker is unable to take the risk of visiting Britain until his licence runs out in October 2024.

The logistics of keeping up with what he calls his ‘patchwork family’ haven’t always been easy. Today he is on great terms with Barbara, and good terms with Angela. And Lilly… well, on the morning we meet, the papers are full of Lilly calling him ‘a devil’ who thinks ‘the world revolves around him’. So let’s call Lilly a work in progress.

‘It takes intelligent parents to find a way. Barbara is very intelligent. We have two wonderful sons who deserve the best of us. That’s the secret to our patchwork relationship,’ Becker says. ‘I have a similar relationship with the mother of my daughter. She’s done an unbelievable job educating her and I’ve supported her every step of the way. She’s now a strong, independent young woman.

‘So I hope with Sharlely we are able to  reach the same point, but we are not there yet. We have good moments and bad.’

This weekend, I wager, must represent a bad one. ‘Well, she has her opinions, which are not always correct or legally right. I’ll leave it like that.’

We are still no closer to determining exactly how Boris Becker ended up in prison, but suffice to say that when his advocate told a registrar in 2017 ‘he is not a sophisticated individual when it comes to finances’, it was a good example of legal understatement. Divorce, child support payments, the €6.5 million settlement over his German tax case, questionable business ventures, a generous and sybaritic lifestyle… it all added up, or rather, subtracted down.

Debts mounted, payments were missed. He took an emergency loan from the British billionaire John Caldwell, then failed to pay it back within three months. A one-time professional poker player, he is fond of the old saying, ‘No shame in folding.’ In 2017 the amazement of the public in Britain – where he was adored as a BBC pundit and, until the mid-noughties, our pre-eminent hyper-horny, financially haywire, wild-haired Boris – Becker had to declare bankruptcy. 

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