Candidate Mayotte lays out his manifesto

The deadline for prospective candidates for the upcoming vacancy on the ATP Board of directors as Americans player representative was Monday.

And one of those candidates, a former top-10 player with an impressive resumé, is Massachusetts native Tim Mayotte.

Mayotte is from a tennis-playing family out of Springfield, Mass. – and widely recognized as the best player ever to have come out of New England.

He is a co-founder of the Tim Mayotte Tennis Academy at the Thoreau Club in Concord, Mass.

A former Player Council president and ATP Tour board member, the 58-year-old was moved to run for the soon-to-be-available spot on the board by recent events involving the current holder of that seat, Justin Gimelstob.

Tennis.Life spoke to Mayotte Monday, to sound him out about Gimelstob, the current state of the ATP, and what his priorities would be should be be elected to the board.

Add Brad Gilbert to the list of ATP Board candidates

On Justin Gimelstob

“My position is that he should not be serving the ATP, no question. And that became even more clear when I read the transcript (Tweeted by Ben Rothenberg). That he would willingly do what he did means he’s not the person you want driving your players.

I don’t want to be represented by him. I think Justin will get his act together, and take the right steps, but he should not be governing the ATP players.

About pondering a run for the board

Tim Mayotte’s tennis resumé

“I started to think about it a number of months ago when the incident came to light. It was definitely a catalyst for me thinking about it, but my thinking solidified over the last couple of months. I have a set of experiences that I don’t think anyone else has had. I was there for the founding of the Tour. I’ve been outside of that, been political in the trenches for a long time. I think that combination of skills is very rare. And it also allows me to come with no ego.

When I served (on the board) before I was so fresh off the Tour. My identity was still tied into being a player. And now, I come in with a real freedom to act in the best way possible for the game and the players, and not worry where I fit in in the pecking order.”

On the disconnect at the top

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“I feel that this is just an incredible time in men’s tennis, with these top three, top four. I’m disheartened to see the discord between the top guys, because I think if you can get all the players – but especially those three or four – on the same page, you can accomplish almost anything.

It’s sad to see the communications issues. From the outside, you have the three most important players at cross-purposes. And the players will be able to set their agenda depending on having those 3-4 players on board. There has been much goodwill built up with those guys. So I’d have to get in to see the nitty-gritty, what their individual thinking is. But I think that would be a huge piece of getting things back on track.”

On what he thinks the position involves

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Mayotte takes on John McEnroe in a 2007 Champions Tour match. No, they never ended up in a band together.

“It’s a critical, critical position. You don’t realize it, I think, until you’re in it. Here you are with the major decisions – outside anything to do with the Slams – impacting the top of the game. What we’ve seen with (Novak) Djokovic, he’s willing to use it. Which is a great sign. But hopefully we can get the players using the board position in the best possible way.

Inherently, there’s tension between the various groups that will never change. Between the higher and lower ranked, the singles and doubles players, and all the various needs. What you hope you can do is get a cohesive vision.”

Areas of particular focus

“What I want to stress that you can do great for the players by doing what’s right for the game.”

“You don’t know where it’s going to head and who’s going to fight various areas. But you have so much goodwill built up with these top guys, I’d like to stress to them that not only they can help themselves, they can help the players.

But also if you look back, people who’ve had a legacy impact go all the way to my hero Stan Smith, (Rod) Laver, (Cliff) Drysdale (the first president of the ATP) – all the way up to Arthur Ashe.”

A flashback to other ATP flashpoints

“If you can sell to the top players that they can have a lasting, positive impact on the game – obviously it has to do with money, but it also has to do with the appeal of the game – I think you can have something special.

They’ve already set the stage. It’s not a feel-good thing after the fact. They’ve done all the right stuff for such a long time, including playing at the highest level. This is their chance to have a lasting impact on the game.

Every time I talk to my students, I ask them, ‘whose name is up on the stadium at the US Open? Why? Because they did great stuff through tennis. And that also extends their impact on the game beyond the tennis.”

On getting a bigger piece of the pie, even in the post-Federer era

“There are two ways the players can really help themselves financially. No. 1 is via the Grand Slams. And No. 2 is via the (Masters) 1000s and the 500s. What most players don’t recognize is that when we initially made the “Super 11” back in the early 1990s, there were a number of tournaments that were pushed aside. Those folks who were able to secure one of the 11 (which eventually went down to the nine Masters 1000s today) were basically given the golden ring.

This was the original plan when Mark Miles started it in 1994-95, that these would become the top events. And that’s what they’ve become.”

There was life after Michael Jordan, after (Magic) Johnson and (Larry) Bird. Sports will turn out great players. And when you put great players in one place in a guaranteed fashion (as with the Masters 1000s), you’ll have growth.

Those events in particular have far increased in value, as have the Slams. The piece of the pie that the players get is tiny, compared to any other sport. And again, this is where the goodwill of these top guys is important.

I also think that the part I want to hear them out on is how do we buoy the lower end of the game – not just the 250s, but the pathway, to make it healthy.

This is another reason I think the players are underpaid. The risk you take now to try to make it on the Tour is extraordinary, the money it takes to get you on that path. So if you get through, you should be more highly compensated.”

Conficts of interest and the ITF pathway

“I’m working with players who would like to make that jump from juniors up. It especially seems like the mishandling of the ITF situation and pathway scares a lot of them. Some of them are looking at colleges instead.

One thing that’s very disturbing is IMG sponsoring the junior rankings. I don’t know. … It’s so bad for the look of the game. And I don’t feel good about the Tennis Channel being at the (USTA) national headquarters. The optics are terrible.”

ITF sells junior rankings sponsorship

On IMG owning tennis, and other conflicts

“That hasn’t even changed that much. They sold the rights for the initial Super 11. And they owned the Tour Championships, (represent) a number of the players, a number of tournaments.

There’s a vertical monopoly that still exists. I don’t know about untangling all of that, but you can make better choices.

I was guilty of it too. I did some work on Prime (Network), USA Channel. Obviously Patrick McEnroe with his mixed bag (as USTA high-performance director, Davis Cup captain and ESPN analyst) … It’s not good for the game. It just can’t be good. I’m not saying I’m going to get in there and fix it all. My goal would be to get in there and listen to the top guys, listen to everybody.”

On getting the star players involved

“It seems now that you have people who are really interested in service. And that that goes all the way down to the lower-ranked players.

When I was on the Tour we tried to do that. But we wouldn’t even get (Ivan) Lendl, (John) McEnroe, (Jimmy) Connors, (Boris) Becker in the same room. They would come in and McEnroe would say, ‘I would be commissioner of tennis, we should have fewer tournaments – and only the ones I want to play.’

We tried to get those guys on the Council, and they wouldn’t do it.

(Then-CEO) Mark Miles really tried hard to reach out to them. I empathized with the players because when I was playing, it was different. When I was coming up, the ATP hadn’t started. There was three-pronged board setup. You just wanted to play tennis. But hopefully you can get people on the same page.

But the next big decision is whom do you hire for Chris (Kermode’s) position.”

Player Council will meet before commenting Gimelstob case

The next steps

“I put in a nomination with my CV. It’s due today (Monday). And the ATP will do a short list. Then I’ll get on the phone and start calling people; I’ve already sent a note to the Player Council.

I’ll get to Rome early, and get my face in front of as many people that will talk to me.

Then a presentation and Q&A with the council. It’d be 10-15 minutes, I’d imagine – very quick, by my recollection.

My task will be getting people to know me before I get in the room.

And that’s going to be the challenge. I remember older folks coming into the Council. And you think you’re well known. But you’re nine generations removed – especially when you hobble in needing a new knee. You come in, you have to get people to know you.

I have met Djokovic before. He’s going to be one the people that matters the most.”

Will he look to involve Federer and Nadal more comprehensively, despite them not being on the Player Council?

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Federer and Djokovic played doubles together at Laver Cup. They also were spotted huddled together in conversation on numerous occasions – and probably not talking about their kids.

“That’s huge, pretty much central to the position.

What is exciting from what Justin did, was that he was able to actively – very actively – get one of the top players involved in the nitty-gritty. Kudos to him.

“There’s no way the top guys when I played would sit in a boardroom. They wanted to play in a band.

They all had bands. Wilander had a band. Noah had a band.

I really should have had a band.”

“You’ve got Federer’s agent, and Nadal’s group. So you have to be able to penetrate that. It’s been interesting to watch Djokovic suffer, because it’s a very difficult job.”

On how coaching resembles the boardroom

“In tennis you’re used to going out and training and having an impact. And in life, in a boardroom, it’s not that way. You have to do the hard work of negotiating and talking.

It’s not unlike teaching. And that’s maybe why teaching tennis is exciting to me, because you’re making changes on a granular level whether it’s a 10-year old, or an 18-year-old.

Obviously you have to know technique. But communications, helping people find meaning in what they’re doing, getting the parents involved so they understand – that’s the same work.

The reward is extraordinary because the changes don’t come when you want them to. And the work has to be endless and repetitive to get that change.”

(Photos: wire, Tennis.Life, eBay, ATP Tour website, Tim Mayotte Tennis Academy)

Becker diplomatic passport a fake: official

Boris Becker’s strategy to have the British bankruptcy proceedings against him delayed or stayed by claiming diplomatic immunity has run into a major road block.

According to Cherubin Moroubama, chief of staff of the Central African Republic’s foreign ministy, Becker’s diplomatic passport is … a fake.

Moroubama told Agence France-Presse that the passport’s serial number is one among a batch of passports stolen back in 2014. He added that the passport contains neither the signature nor the stamp of the foreign minister.

“Attaché for Sports/Humanitarian/Cultural Affairs”

The fellow above, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, is the president of the Central African Republic.

Agence France-Presse saw a copy of the passport, which is dated March 19, 2018.

No such job

Last week, Becker’s lawyers filed a claim in London saying his freshly-minted diplomatic status granted him immunity from bankruptcy. Definitely an original strategy. But, it seems, one that might not be successful.

“Becker’s job profile does not exist” in the CAR’s records, Moroubama told AFP.

As well, the passport states that Becker’s diplomatic function is “financial chargé de mission” – unrelated to sport.

A “chargé de mission” roughly translates to “liaison officer”, a job that would theoretically involve establishing financial ties between the Central African Republic and other countries.

No doubt many more chapters to come on this one.

Becker claims “diplomatic immunity” in bankruptcy case

You knew, when the embattled Boris Becker announced he had been named German “Attaché for Sport and Cultural Affairs of the Central African Republic” in April, that something was afoot.

Now the other shoe has dropped.

Becker is now attempting to invoke “diplomatic immunity” regarding the bankruptcy proceedings going on against against him in London.

According to the Financial Times, the Guardian and other British media, Becker filed a statement via his lawyer Thursday. In it, he says he is “bound” to declare that immunity.

“A bunch of anonymous and unaccountable bankers and bureaucrats pushed me into a completely unnecessary declaration of bankruptcy, which has inflicted a whole heap of damage on me, both commercially and professionally, and on those close to me,” the statement read. “Once this gravy train for the suits has been stopped in its tracks, my lawyers will turn to the question of compensation. I will be coming after the people who forced this process through to hold them publicly accountable for their actions.”

The Guardian reports that Becker will have an office in the Central African Republic’s Belgian embassy in Brussels, as part of this new gig. 

(As it happens, the Central African Republic’s embassy in Germany, located in Bonn, is “temporarily closed”.)

Just like a military attaché, really

Becker drops most diplomatic-sounding, extremely well-written, statesmanlike nuggets in his statement. They are first comments we’ve seen about this appointment since he announced it nearly two months ago.

“I should add that I am immensely proud of my appointment as the sports and culture attaché for the Central African Republic. Sport is incredibly important in Africa and is fast becoming a universal language, a form of social diplomacy and a leveller between people from vastly different and unequal social backgrounds around the world,” he wrote.

“My diplomatic role in the Central African Republic allows me to give something meaningful back to sports supporters in one of the poorest parts of the world. There is no reason why a role of this kind should be treated any differently to an appointment as a military or a trade attache, which everyone recognizes as attracting diplomatic immunity.”

A Becker lawyer, Oliver Moser, told Der Spiegel that taking up the post had nothing to do with the potential benefits it might have regarding his financial woes.

Boris’s life like a soap opera

It was almost exactly a year ago – June 17, 2017 – that Becker was declared bankrupt in London. The determination was made following his failure to pay a debt going back to 2015.

A month later, reports surfaced that Becker had been involved in some Nigerian oil business that may well have contributed to his financial problems. 

Since then, he has been named head of German men’s tennis.

By October, it was reported that he had taken out a substantial loan – at 25 per cent interest. And that his debt load was significantly larger than had been reported.

Later that month, he accepted an honorary membership into the prestigious Cambridge Union, accompanied by his wife, Lilly.

By February, it was reported that he was now hawking double-paned windows.

In late May, it was announced that Becker and Lilly, his second wife, had split after nine years of marriage.

Auctioning off precious memorabilia

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Meanwhile, Tennis.Life received an e-mail last week from the Wyles, Hardy & Co. auction house. The company was acting on behalf of “M. Ford Esq., F. O’Connell Esq & G. Lemon Esq., the Joint Trustees in Bankruptcy.”

The auction, which closes June 28 – just a few days before the Championships, will put up a host of Becker memorabilia. It includes “Watches and Commemorative items together with unique Trophies, Medals and Awards marking the achievements of Mr. Becker’s prolific sporting career.”

The e-mail adds that “it has been our client’s long term view that this extraordinary collection be offered for sale during the Summer months when the world’s focus is on the Queens and Wimbledon tennis tournaments.”

Of course. Timing is everything.

Clothes, shoes, trophies, coins

If you want to take a peek – and maybe help a tennis brother out – there’s a viewing. The items will be available in London next Wednesday at the Knapp Gallery, Regent’s University.

Here’s the link to the online auction.

There are watches (including a Novak Djokovic Seiko model). There also are assorted clothes that had been on display at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

As well, “three Pewter Commemorative Cups of Conical Form with Relief Decoration depicting Boris Becker and celebrating his Wimbledon Championships.” A total of 81 lots, ranging from priceless memories to assorted Becker tchotchkes. 

immunityThere’s even a scuzzy-looking pair of tennis shoes, autographed of course.

It has to be a shock to the system when the memories of all you’ve accomplished in your life are just laid out there, lot by lot, for people to bid on.

Despite the fact that he reportedly owes a ton of people a ton of money, you have to feel some sympathy for the former German star. It appears he’s not been a bad guy. More than anything, he comes off as gullible and not too smart.

And through it all, he has continued his television work, walking around tennis tournaments holding his head up high. That can’t be easy to do, when you know that most who recognize you are are of what’s happening in your life.

And as Wimbledon approaches once again, he’ll be front-and-centre at the Grand Slam he first won as a teenager. And the British tabloids will be busy.

Life sure comes at some people hard.

Who loses 14 trophies? Boris does

MELBOURNE, Australia – A lot of wacky things have happened to former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker in his rather eventful life.

Losing … 14 championship trophies has to be at the top of the list.

But according to a BBC story Thursday, that’s exactly what has happened.

These aren’t the actual trophies; they’re the replicas given to the champions, with the originals remaining with the tournaments. But it’s quite a collection.

Becker’s three Wimbledon trophies, his two Australian Open trophies, a trophy for winning the 1989 Davis Cup with Germany, and his Olympic gold medal from the men’s doubles event at the 1992 Games in Barcelona are among the missing.

In other words, all the big stuff.

“Unable to recollect”

A joint statement from Becker and his bankruptcy trustees, Smith & Williamson, said this: “Mr Becker is unable to recollect where they are located.”

The 50-year-old German is trying to get out of a money crunch dating to last June.

A bankruptcy court in London ruled that Becker owed a big sum of money. And despite his claims it was all a misunderstanding and that the sale of a huge property in Mallorca would go a long way towards covering it, they were not confidant he was good for it. 

“We are currently trying to locate and recover Mr Becker’s missing Australian Open and Wimbledon trophies, settling an income payments agreement for the next three years as well as continuing our investigations into other possible recoveries, including property, in the UK and overseas,” the trustees said in a statement.

Becker is currently at the Australian Open doing television for Eurosport.

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For patient fans, Djokovic worth the wait

MELBOURNE, Australia – Novak Djokovic arrived at his practice court about an hour later than scheduled Sunday.

But the large group of Djokovic fans who waited patiently were well rewarded.

A whole lot of things happened within the space of about an hour, all of them good things.

First, there was a Boris Becker sighting. And Djokovic had bro hugs and all the love for his former mentor.

New mentor Andre Agassi also showed Becker the love. And new coach Radek Stepanek showed his love by poking fun at Becker’s distinctive service motion.

There were a lot of coaches, a few Grand Slam titles as well.

(Warning, lots of Djoker pics below).

Coaches all over the place

And then, there was the hitting of the tennis balls. For that purpose, Djokovic had two young Aussie kids on the other side of the net. 

They kept up well with him, except … they really couldn’t touch his serve. Not the first serve, not the second serve. After awhile they got their rackets on a few. But it was truly beyond their ken.

After that, it was time for some team bocce.

Becker was invited on court for that little contest, which consisted of of tossing the ball and trying to be the one who got it closest to the baseline.

None of the former players won, despite a variety of techniques. Agassi used his left arm. The winner was his physio, Marco Panichi.

After a little team group hug, it was on to the fan portion of the hour.

Babies and little boys and smiles

It’s no secret that bringing an adorable baby is a great move if you want to get a professional athlete’s attention. And Djokovic was no exception.

He immediately took the baby girl from her father’s arms (trusting a total stranger with your baby because they’re famous is this thing that some people can do), and posed with her for dad.

Then he lifted a young boy right over the fence and had a hit with him – and Djokovic provided his own Head racket for that purpose.

Djokovic does this regularly. The kid was in absolute heaven when he finished off the final point with an emphatic overhead.

It turns out that new coach Stepanek has an alternate duty – souvenir distribution. The Czech followed DJokovic as he made his way down the crowd line with a Vegemite drawstring bag full of ballcaps – with Novak Djokovic and Lacoste logos. 

Hello, Schatzi!

One final duty – an interview with Becker on Eurosport, where Djokovic proceeded to explain that he calls Becker “Schatzi” – a term of endearment. 

The hour of love definitely put some good karma on Djokovic’s side.

He made a lot of people happy.

Djokovic’s fourth-round match is a tough test. The Serb will play Next-Gen finals champion Hyeon Chung during the night session on Rod Laver Monday night (7 p.m. Australian time; 3 a.m. EST and midnight PST back in North America)

German mags report major Becker debt

Boris Becker is being hit with a double-barreled dose of German tabloid magazine drama.

Two magazines have published stories that assert the 49-year-old former tennis star’s forced bankruptcy declaration in a London court just before Wimbledon this year is just the tip of a debt-laden iceberg.

The German magazine Stern reports in its Thursday edition that the 49-year-old retired tennis star owes significantly more than had earlier been reported. The magazine puts his total debt at more than 54.4 million British pounds (more than $72 million US).

Another German magazine, Bunte, says it has seen a 24-page report from the Smith & Williamson financial firm. The report refers to almost exactly the same amount of debt.

And, according to Bunte, the firm believes it is “probable” that “additional creditor claims are established”.

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Two German magazines detail the breadth of retired tennis star Boris Becker’s financial woes.

An auction could be in the offing

The magazine claims Becker’s valuable collection of trophies are to be auctioned off by the firm of Wyles Hardy & Co. It also assrts that he has been urged not to dispose of any memorabilia either from his home, or his mother’s home. 

As well, it reports that the auction house already has taken possession of four watches valued at nearly $50,000 US.

Stern is reporting that financier Hans-Dieter Cleven is owed the most, some $45 million US.

Welt reported back in July that the two, who have been involved in several businesses together over the last two decades, were headed to court in Switzerland. The newspaper also reported Cleven had bailed out his business partner financially on several occasions in the past.

Stern reports that some of Becker’s assets have yet to be evaluated. But the total value of those that have, the magazine claims, is less than $650,000 US.

There has been no comment from Becker on the emerging drama. And the nature of the magazines will always make you reserve judgment.

But it sure doesn’t look good for him.

As his own lawyer said during the original flurry of stories back in June, “He is not a sophisticated individual when it comes to finances.”

The Daily Mail has a summary in English of the German reports.

Becker new head of German men’s tennis

The German Tennis Federation has created a new job for its men’s icon, Boris Becker.

Becker, 49 and the former coach of Novak Djokovic, is the new “Head of Men’s Tennis.” And, in the process, Fed Cup captain Barbara Rittner will become the “Head of Women’s Tennis.”

Rittner already unofficially fills that role. Whenever there’s a female German player on court at a Grand Slam event (and others), you will usually see her courtside, paying rapt attention. Her leadership clearly has been a source of support to the many and varied German women at the top of the game.

“To have Boris Becker and Barbara Rittner fill these key positions is a milestone on our target-oriented path to recovery,” said German Tennis Federation vice-president Dirk Hordorff.

Hordorff also is the longtime coach of Janko Tipsarevic.

By “recovery”, of course, Hordorff must be referring to German men’s tennis. Because the women have been doing just fine. Angelique Kerber has been the No. 1 ranked player in the world for much of the last year and a half. And they have six other players in the top 100 at the moment. Add to that Annika Beck and Sabine Lisicki, who have fallen out because of injury.

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If a German female player was practicing at a big tournament, you’d usually see Barbara Rittner there, observing. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The Germans have eight men’s players in the top 115 on the ATP Tour. And they have the brightest prospect of all, rising star Alexander Zverev, at No. 6.

Most countries wouldn’t feel that count requires a “recovery”. But the Germans are comparing themselves to a history that includes both Becker and Steffi Graf.

The new German Fed Cup captain will be Jens Gerlach.

Becker role in the works 18 months

“I have been in continuous communication with Vice-President Dirk Hordorff for about a year and a half in order to find a suitable role for me at the German Tennis Federation. Naturally, due to my job as Novak Djokovic’s coach until the end of last year, this was not possible earlier. The discussions between me and the Federation became more intense since the first-round Davis Cup tie against Belgium. Finally in Wimbledon we came to an agreement,” Becker said in a statement.

“In general, the goals are to help German men’s tennis through my experience as a former player and coach. Furthermore, I am looking forward to exchanging views with the Davis Cup team captain and the national coaches, as well as with our best men’s and up-and-coming players.”

Becker added that he would begin the job right away, 

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Jens Gerlach

“I will start my work at the US Open where I will be able to take a closer look at the German players within the framework of my activity for Eurosport.”

He said Rittner, 44 and a former top-25 player in both singles and doubles,  had been a great resource during the course of the courtship.

“Barbara Rittner was a great help to me in the past 18 months. Without her support, I wouldn’t do my new task. She gave valuable insights into the ‘new’ German Tennis Federation,” Becker said.

Gerlach, 44, is the former boyfriend and coach of French Open champion Anastasia Myskina. Myskina herself currently is the Russian Fed Cup captain. Gerlach has also worked with Vera Zvonereva, among other players.

Bankruptcy for Boris Becker

London’s The Telegraph newspaper reports former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker was declared bankrupt Wednesday.

The 49-year-old is the former coach of Novak Djokovic, and an ambassador for a poker company.

As the German gets ready to take on a high profile role as an analyst during Wimbledon for the BBC and other outlets, it probably doesn’t come at the best time for his professional image.

“He should have thought about that a long time ago,” the judge in the case said.

The declaration came in the Bankruptcies and Companies Court in London. It concerns a debt owed to a London private bank that has been outstanding for 20 months.

The next step is to have Becker’s assets liquidated to pay his creditors. The amount of the debt was not disclosed, but was described as “substantial”.

Becker will have all this hanging over his head as he prepares for plenty of camera time during Wimbledon. He has a home in the area. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Becker issued a statement, also broken down into multiple Tweets for his 656,000 Twitter followers (read bottom to top).

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Boris

Becker’s attorneys asked for the proceeding to be postponed a month, so that he could remortgage a property he owns in Mallorca to help pay off the debt.

His lawyer said, of his 49-year-old client, “He is not a sophisticated individual when it comes to finances.”

Not the first money miscue

The Telegraph story outlines many of Becker’s previous financial … misadventures. They include a tax evasion conviction and divorce and paternity suits. There also was Dubai real-estate venture named after him that went belly-up. As well, a host of contractors” bills related to the construction of his Mallorca home reportedly were unpaid.

Becker has five children with three different women, including two wives.

The judge didn’t find the evidence that Becker would repay the money in short order credible enough to issue a stay.

 “One has the impression of a man with his head in the sand,” she said. 

Becker coached former No. 1 Djokovic for three years, until the end of the 2016 season, when he was relieved of his duties. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

There’s lots of detail in this well-reported story. Worth a read.