Not good at it yet, Boris Becker. The former German tennis player spent almost eight months behind bars in England last year for bankruptcy fraud. He says he lived through terrifying days there and called his imprisonment a “royal punishment.” The 55-year-old tennis legend also feared for his own safety among all the criminals. “The prison is very dangerous,” the BBC said.

The six-time Grand Slam winner was released from British prison in December last year and immediately extradited to his native Germany. Becker, who has lived in the UK since 2012, was eligible for automatic extradition for being a foreigner without a British passport and was sentenced to more than 12 months in prison. He won’t be welcome back on British soil until October 2024.

Awaiting the release of a new documentary about his life and career, Becker spoke openly on the BBC about his difficult time behind bars. “It’s a real punishment. Anyone who says that prison life is not hard and difficult is lying. I had never been in prison before so it was a really brutal experience and also completely different from what you see in the movies or what you hear in the stories”.

Boris Becker
Boris Becker ©AFP

The German said he was forced to befriend “tough guys” in prison to ensure his own safety. “Prison is very dangerous. You fight every day to survive. He was surrounded by murderers, drug dealers, rapists, human traffickers, and other dangerous criminals. So you have to let yourself be protected by the ‘tough guys’, as I would call them. Because if you think you’re better than others, you lose. That was the harsh reality of every day, dealing with different kinds of people.”

Boris Becker with his girlfriend Lilian de Carvalho.
Boris Becker with his girlfriend Lilian de Carvalho. ©EPA


‘It certainly made me stronger’

Despite the difficult period in prison, Becker always remained combative. The former tennis player said he learned a lot about himself in prison, including that he is a ‘mensch’, a German word for a person of integrity. ,,I am a man with strengths and weaknesses, and I’m still here. I call these life lessons. At 17 I never thought I would end up in prison at 54. I never expected the good and I certainly didn’t expect the bad either,” he told the BBC.

Becker was determined to come out of his time in prison stronger. “I am a true survivor, a tough cookie. I was grounded and locked up, but I also got something good out of it and it certainly made me stronger. Now I am a better man and with my future decisions you will be able to see if I have learned or not from my punishment”. He also claimed that his time in jail has “humiliated” him. “It made me realize that whether your name is Boris Becker or Paul Smith (British fashion designer, ed.), you will always be convicted and jailed if you break the law. That applies to everyone.”


Appointment

I am a true survivor, one tough cookie.

Boris Becker

Boris Becker speaks candidly about his difficult time in prison
Boris Becker speaks candidly about his difficult time in prison © BBC 5 live

Support from family and friends

Becker added that he was lucky to have the support of his friends and family. In his own words, he found out who really supported him over the past five years. “I have wonderful parents and a sister, so you know, the first 54 years of my life were very good and blessed with beautiful memories. Especially during the first few weeks of your sentence, when you are completely alone in a very small prison cell, you live on it.”

Despite his months in prison, his family did not abandon him. ,,I am lucky to be able to stand firmly on both feet, none of my teammates have let me down. They have welcomed me home and have always been very supportive. I just have a great group of people around me who have supported me no matter what.”

Boris Becker with his mother Elvira Becker at an awards ceremony in 2019
Boris Becker with his mother Elvira Becker at an awards ceremony in 2019 ©fake images

The German, who was still working for the BBC as an analyst before his sentence, is now going to build the ‘third chapter’ of his life. “There are two chapters in the documentary and now I am working on the third. In the world of tennis, I’m usually good in the fifth set. I won the first two sets and lost the next two, but now I’m playing the fifth set and I intend to win it.”

Youngest Grand Slam winner

Boris Becker won Wimbledon in 1985 at the age of just 17, making him the youngest-ever male Grand Slam singles winner. In London, the German was also crowned winner in 1986 and 1989. Later he also won the Australian Open (1991 and 1996) and the US Open (1989).