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Günther Bosch, the coach who took Becker from Leimen through two Wimbledon triumphs, was alternately a soft driver and a constricting chaperon. Even after Becker's first Wimbledon victory, Bosch would order him to dress in a coat and tie and have dinner with him and Mrs. Bosch in lieu of going out with other teenagers. "Bosch wanted to get closer just as I was growing up and didn't want close," says Becker. "Teaching-wise, he did as much as he could. I needed more."
Their split in January 1987 was bitter, and tension remains today; the two men barely speak. "There is no relationship," says Becker, coldly. "Not a good one, not bad. Just nothing." The few negative vibes about Becker that have emanated from the tennis community came from Bosch following the breakup. According to Becker, the two of them had agreed to part after the '87 Australian Open. When Becker lost a stunner to Wally Masur of Australia in that tournament, Bosch announced the parting "as if he was leaving me," says Becker. "We agreed not to discuss publicly the reasons, and then he goes in the next room and talks to the press for three hours about the inside stuff. I still feel he betrayed me."
Recently in his commentary for German newspapers and TV, Bosch has complimented Becker, "even about my worst matches," says the champ. "I know it is his way of apologizing. It just confirms that everything he said following the split was unfair. I accept his situation, but it doesn't mean we'll sit down for a couple of dinners anytime soon."
Tiriac, the brilliant, glowering mentor to the likes of Ilie Nastase and Guillermo Vilas, taught Becker all the ropes he had learned over a lifetime spent traversing the world, entertaining the media, dealing in myriad foreign tongues, snookering officials, tournament directors and agents and generally surviving the tennis grind. After the split with Bosch, Tiriac also became Becker's interim coach, but when it came time for Tiriac to turn over the coaching to someone else, he was not sure where to turn. His idea of providing Becker with a glamorous name—Roy Emerson, John Newcombe and Marty Riessen were candidates—did not go over with the champion. Instead, in November '87, Becker announced his own choice: a slight, unknown Australian named Bob Brett, the coach of some of Becker's friends on the tour, and a quiet, likable chap with whom Becker remembered playing the first round of golf in his life one day in Melbourne.
"The first thing I wanted from a new coach was that he not try to be my father," says Becker. Voilà. Brett, age 37, despite being a protégé of the crotchety old Australian taskmaster Harry Hopman, has provided Becker with a looser atmosphere, a warmer feel. "We share the same interests until about 10 p.m.," says Becker. "Then I like to go out." Brett, a marathon runner, goes to bed.
At the upper levels of the game, of course, there is little actual coaching to be done. Especially with Becker, who, for a fast-court, net-rushing aficionado, plays mind contests as readily as anybody. Bosch used to hold forth with the press for hours after Becker's matches; Brett gives no interviews and even keeps his own counsel as to Becker's training methods and strategy. "It's like a doctor-patient thing to me," says Brett.
Not that Becker, as cerebral a slugger as tennis has seen since Don Budge and Ellsworth Vines in the '30s, needs much help. Tiriac, who never controlled Becker as he did Nastase, Vilas and others, says, "This guy never yet realize that even [President] Bush has advisers."
"But Bush is doing something important," says Becker, laughing. "I'll take advice. Just not every week. Look, I know Ion thinks all I should do is serve and volley. That I don't isolate on tennis, that I don't want to beat a guy badly enough, that I take losing too easily. That's just how I am. All I know is, since I have this approach the last three years, it's got mc the championship of the world.
"At this stage, playing the top guys, it isn't so much tennis, anyway. It's nerves, brain, heart," says Becker. "In order to lift myself for the Grand Slams, the tournament finals, the Davis Cup, I have to have balance in the rest of my life. If I'm happy and content off the court it helps my game. In Key Biscayne, look, I am unhappy. I lose to Fleurian. Three days later, I break up with Karen. You think there is a connection? At Wimbledon in '87, Bénédicte leaves. Doohan arrives. What do you think? Is it related? It is much more important to win in life than in tennis. That will stay longer with me."
It is instructive to remember that, having left home at the age of 16 to train and live with Tiriac in the bejeweled wilderness of Monaco, this fuzz-cheeked small-town kid, in searching for friendship, roots and life's ultimate meaning, has routinely fallen into the arms of older women. Becker's first close female friend on the tennis tour was Susan Mascarin, a gorgeous young woman from Grosse Pointe, Mich., who herself was at one time the world junior girls' champion. Three years Becker's senior, Mascarin found out exactly what real celebrity is when, in October of '85, after only a few weeks of being courted by Becker, she arrived at a women's tournament in Filderstadt, West Germany, and found pictures of herself plastered all over the front pages.