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Boris Becker says he is returning to the tennis tour as the coach of spiky young Danish player Holger Rune, but he will be unable to attend next year’s Wimbledon because of his conviction for tax evasion.
Becker revealed his new role in an interview with Eurosport – the TV channel he has worked for since January. Only a month earlier, he had been deported from the UK after serving eight months of his two-and-a-half-year sentence.
He has described his period of incarceration – which he spent first in Wandsworth prison in London and then Huntercombe prison in Oxfordshire – as “brutal”.
It is not clear how long it will be before Becker is allowed to return to the UK, but post-conviction travel bans can last for a decade and it is understood that Becker’s deportation order would last for 10 years, because his sentence was fewer than four, unless revoked for ‘exceptional circumstances’. Certainly, Rune would not be able to bring Becker with him for next summer’s grasscourt tournaments at Queen’s Club or Wimbledon.
When contacted by London’s Daily Telegraph, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Any foreign national who has been convicted of a crime and deported is prohibited from returning for as long as the deportation order made against them remains in force.”
We can only assume that Rune is on board with the announcement. He featured Becker in recent social media posts, including a photo of his support team at the weekend which carried the caption “Great practice week in Monaco.”
An Instagram post from Monaco earlier this week revealed Rune’s involvement with Becker (centre).Credit: Instagram
But Rune’s coaching situation has been complicated for some time. He had an association with Patrick Mouratoglou, formerly Serena Williams’s coach, between last October and April – but it was never quite clear whether he was working primarily with Mouratoglou or with fellow Dane Lars Christensen.
Becker left no room for doubt in his interview with Eurosport, saying “I can confirm that I am Holger Rune’s coach. It makes me a little proud that he asked me. The contact has existed for a long time. Now it was a very good fit.”
This will be Becker’s first coaching role since he worked with Novak Djokovic between 2013 and 2016 – a period that found Djokovic landing six major titles and racking up 122 weeks as world No 1.
As with Mouratoglou and Rune, this wasn’t a nuts-and-bolts technical role. Becker offered broad-spectrum guidance while – for most of their time together – Slovakia’s Marian Vajda led the on-court sessions.
Boris Becker served eight months of a two-and-a-half year prison sentence.Credit: Getty
“I met Holger when he was 15, 16 years old,” said Becker, of the world No.8. “That was at the ATP Finals, when I was still coaching Novak Djokovic. Holger was our training partner. That’s how long I’ve known him and his mother. We have always stayed in conversation. And now the question came: ‘Can you help me?’ And my answer was: ‘Yes, let me visit you in Monte Carlo.’
“He then talked about the rest of the year. That was OK with me and I freed up time for Basel, Paris and, if we make it, Turin [the venue for the eight-man ATP Finals]. After that, we’ll decide whether the co-operation has a future and whether we’ll go into 2024 together.”
In all probability, Becker’s first job will be to persuade Rune – who, at 20, is one of the sport’s most promising talents – to step off the treadmill. At this time last year, Rune was almost unstoppable, defeating Djokovic to win the Paris Masters. He was also developing a reputation for winding up other players, with three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka telling him to “stop acting like a baby” during a chilly handshake at the net.
But despite continuing his form through the first half of 2023, Rune has lost seven of eight matches since Wimbledon. According to his mother Anneke, he has been struggling with a bulging disc in his back for some time. And yet he insists on continuing to play. On Tuesday, he fell to Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of Stockholm. Before that, he had taken a 6-0, 6-2 towelling from world No.122 Brandon Nakashima in Shanghai.
Holger Rune has won just one match since Wimbledon.Credit: AP
Becker – who expects to start his tenure next week in Basel – alluded to this issue when he said “For me, it’s about ‘What is Holger’s motivation?’ And the reason to go to China, for example? Is it just to win the first round or the tournament, is it for ranking points? … If he plays every week, he will eventually get tired. That’s why I have to have a big say in this, according to the motto: ‘Here we have to insert a training week, here we have to regenerate, and maybe you go on holiday with your girlfriend for 10 days.’”
Becker was a big part of the “supercoach” trend that Andy Murray began by hiring Ivan Lendl at the end of 2011. Lendl has since returned for a third stint with Murray – again, in a relatively remote capacity – while Djokovic now employs former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, and Rafael Nadal is coached by former world No.1 Carlos Moya.
Yet none of these names can compete with Becker’s stature in the game – nor his chequered and complicated life story.
His return to the tour confirms that – as far as the tennis world is concerned – Becker’s penalty for tax evasion ended on the day of his release.
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