Boris Becker's Premature Farewell

It was a lovely summer for Dan Karsten: No school. Two weeks of tennis camp in Maine. More tennis. A few movies.

Then why does Dan say it could be better?

"I wish [Boris] Becker was here," said the sixth-grader from Framingham, Mass., at the MFS Pro Championships in Chestnut Hill, Mass., from which Becker pulled out last week after his manager Axel Meyer-Woelden passed away. "I just wanted to see him play."

Becker also cancelled his participation in the US Open which he had said would be the last Grand Slam event of his illustrious career. After losing to eventual winner Pete Sampras at Wimbledon, the world's 14th-ranked player said he doesn't have what it takes to win the two-week-long Grand Slam events.

He said he will pick up the racket for the occasional ATP Tour tournament, but devote much of his time to family - son, Noah Gabriel, and wife, Barbara.

In a decade when the popularity of tennis peaked, Becker endeared himself to millions of fans. His retirement from the "majors" is the end of a golden era of tennis, says Pete Alfano, vice president of communications for the Association of Tennis Professionals.

"Becker isn't just another superstar," Alfano says. "His style of play and personality inspired millions of Europeans [to play tennis]. We hope that he continues to play."

As a teenager in 1984, the flame-haired German stunned the world with the belly-flop volleys and blistering serves he used to win Wimbledon. It was a refreshing style - copied since then, but never perfected. As he blitzed his way to his first Wimbledon title, he balked at references to his intimidating style. "Boom-Boom" the papers dubbed him. "Germany Bombs Wimbledon Again," a British tabloid headlined Becker's achievement. Too warlike, said the sensitive German, who is known to comment on world affairs and asked that the nickname be dropped.

For more than a decade Becker played at the top. His 18th world ranking earlier this year was his poorest since he was a 16-year-old rookie. It was consistency that earned him three Wimbledon, two Australian Open, and one US Open title, plus millions of dollars in prize money.

His career earnings are estimated at $25 million. Endorsements and returns from business investments fetched an additional $50 million.

Along with Swedes Bjorn Borg and Stephan Edberg, Becker was instrumental in making tennis a major sport in Europe says Alfano. A year before the first Becker triumph at Wimbledon, German television offered a total of 13 hours of live tennis. By 1992 there were 2,739 hours.

A decade after he sparked a German tennis boom Becker plans to take an active role with the Mercedes junior team, a German development squad for those 16 to 18. He will advise the players on which tournaments to enter and, at times, join them on the ATP Tour. Among the team's budding talents are Nicholas Kiefer, Boris Bachert, and Bjorn Phau.

As Becker recasts his priorities, Sampras says the world will miss the explosive player. "He is one of the best players who has ever played," the world's No.1 player has said. "The game needs some personality, and it needs a rivalry. We've got to find something."

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