Tuesday, August 07, 2001

Becker returns after 2 years of turmoil

By Neil Schmidt and Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Boris Becker met glad handshakes Monday in the ATP Tennis Center's players lounge. If it wasn't an end to his retirement, it was a sort of homecoming.

Boris Becker greets fans.
(AP photo)
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        “It feels good,” Becker said. “It feels right to be here.”

        Tennis appears to be the port in Becker's storm. After a well-publicized divorce and a paternity suit, the three-time Wimbledon champion is back in his element.

        He will play doubles today at Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati, partnering with Goran Ivanisevic against the team of Jonas Bjorkman and Todd Woodbridge (approximately 3 p.m. on the Grandstand court).

        “On one hand, it feels like it was 20 years ago when I was playing,” he said. “But on the other hand, it seems like I left yesterday.”

  • Schedule, results
  • Tickets: 11 a.m., 7 p.m. ($18). Call 651-0303 or TicketMaster at 562-4949.
  • Television: 1-3 p.m., ESPN (live)
  • The bracket
  • Ladies Day: There is a brunch featuring the modeling of sportswear and designer-label fashions. It costs $18 for the brunch, $34 for the brunch and that day's matches. Call 651-0303 for information.
  • High School Tennis Day: There will be an on-court clinic and Skyline Chili lunch for $18 a person, including the day's matches ($16 a person for groups larger than 10; $14 for groups larger than 20). Call 651-0303 for information.
  • More Masters facts
        The 33-year-old native of Germany paused in an inter view room Monday and looked at the photo from his lone Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati title. It was 1985, and Becker was just 17 — still the youngest champ in the tournament's history. That was nearly half his lifetime ago.

        He retired on June 30, 1999, after losing a fourth-round singles match at Wimbledon. His life went downhill within hours, when his celebration that night ended in him having sex in a broom closet with Angela Ermakova, a Russian waitress-model.

        Ermakova got pregnant, and when DNA tests proved her daughter was Becker's, he agreed to make payments that eventually will total about $1.5 million. This went public shortly after the press linked Becker with a German rap star named Sabrina Setlur, when they were seen checking into the same hotel.

        Becker and his wife, the former Barbara Feltus, divorced. Under their settlement, their two sons live with Barbara, she and Boris share custody, and she got a settlement package reported to be worth $14.4 million.

        This followed a period in which Becker's longtime business manager, and friend, Axel Meyer-Wolden, and Becker's father, Karl-Heinz, both died.

        Becker declined Monday to talk about these details: “So much has been reported about my last two years ... that I'm glad to be able to speak about tennis and what I'm doing here, and the rest I want to keep outside.”

        Becker said he had to be fully retired for two years in order to begin playing seniors events, which he will begin next week at an event in Austria. He said he will play at least periodically on the men's doubles tour, though he said he won't do so at the U.S. Open and denied an earlier report he was eyeing a future invitation to Wimbledon.

        He won't be playing singles — “I've closed that book,” he said — though he will play John McEnroe in an exhibition match at the U.S. Open. He said he still feels he can win doubles tournaments.

        “I'm 33, so I don't really feel like I'm old,” he said.


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