Lilly Becker’s son Amadeus turned 13 two months after his father – the tennis legend Boris – got out of prison. Much to celebrate, then.
The second Mrs Becker, who is still married to the shamed champion confesses she went a bit overboard, because her son had been ‘through a lot’.
‘I wanted to give Amadeus the best party ever. I threw everything at it, to the point where I had to say ”Do not think you will have this every year. You won’t have another party like this until you are 18 or 21.”
‘I invited every kid in his class. I hired a red carpet, a limo, people to act as paparazzi snapping him and his friends as they got out. I transformed our back yard into a discotheque with lights and a bar. We had entertainers, a lady belly-dancer with a snake, make-up artists. Thirteen of the kids stayed over and we all went paintballing the next day. Then another sleepover.
‘It went on all weekend, and by the end my house was trashed and I was pooped, but you know what? It was worth it, just to see that big smile on his face. That was the point of it. I didn’t want him to have time to think of anything else other than what a great time he was having, and how loved he was.’
The second Lilly Becker (pictured), who is still married to the shamed champion confesses she went a bit overboard, because her son had been ‘through a lot’
Pictured: Lilly, Boris and their son Amadeus who turned 13 two months after his father – the tennis legend – got out of prison
Dare we mention Boris? He wasn’t there in London on fizzy-pop pouring duty, clearly, as he had been deported from the UK immediately after his release. But did he at least chip in for the bellydancer? Send a massive gift?
Lilly won’t be drawn, but she rolls her eyes.
Obviously shockwaves went round the world when Boris Becker – still a hero to millions – actually went to jail, found guilty of concealing £2.5million of assets and loans in a bankruptcy fraud case.
He served eight months of his two and a half year sentence, emerging from prison to give a slew of emotive interviews about how the ‘brutal’ experience had made him a ‘better man’.
‘You fight every day for survival,’ said Boris, waxing lyrical about being a tennis player surrounded by murderers, drug-dealers, rapists, people smugglers. ‘Quickly, you have to surround yourself with the tough boys, as I would call it, because you need protection.’
His jail time ‘humbled’ him, he said. ‘I’ve taken the incarceration, but I’ve also taken the glory and if anything this made me a stronger, better man.’
He is now building his life’s ‘third chapter’, he said, looking upward, onward, forward.
A round of applause? Well, he is certainly not going to get any from his estranged wife – she’s busy building a new life for herself and her son in Clapham, after uprooting from their previous home in Wimbledon, site of Boris’s greatest sporting triumphs.
I have interviewed Lilly several times. She railed and cried and thumped the table in anger during our last encounter almost a year ago, when he had just been sent to prison, still in shock about how let down she felt by him, unprepared for what was to come.
They had split when Amadeus was eight – her call, she says today. And while he’d never been in the running for any Father Of the Year awards, he had been a big part of his son’s life, and that, she felt, was a good thing.
When he was jailed, however, she felt she was ‘left to deal with the mess, to pick up all the pieces’. This included telling their distraught and confused son why his father was in prison, and trying to console him.
At the time I asked how she felt Boris would survive inside. Perhaps he would emerge a changed person, one desperate to make amends?
Perhaps they would be able to sit down together, the three of them, and Boris – who has three other children, to two other women – would do his utmost to explain everything to his son, in person.
She scoffed, saying that he would emerge to a raft of book deals and offers to ‘tell his story’. He would triumph, ultimately, ‘because that is what Boris Becker does’.
‘Prison has not changed him one little bit,’ she said. ‘Boris has come out of prison doing the whole ‘I am so humble’ thing. But it’s a constant stream of Me, Me, Me. Give me a break.’
Boris Becker with Lilly and Their Son Amadeus at the Cartier Queens Cup Final at Smiths Lawn Windsor Great Park Berkshire on 15, June, 2014
When he was released he gave a lengthy interview on German TV, which she didn’t want to watch, but her new boyfriend – who is German – did.
‘Thanks God for the Peleton bike. I went upstairs and went on it for an hour, but he was still talking when I came down again, and I just caught a bit where he was crying. Fake tears. Embarrassing, actually. Was he taking acting lessons in prison? It made me laugh. I know this man. I was married to this man. I am still married to this man. Boris doesn’t care about anybody but Boris.’
‘Then there was a magazine interview where he was commenting on how it takes an intelligent couple to co-parent a child. He was talking about his first wife Barbara [Felthus], who has never spoken out, challenging his version, his narrative.
‘He seemed to forget I was married to him for many of those years, so there were three of us co-parenting.’
‘Then he started talking about his new girlfriend, about how she is the big love of his life. What? How many of them can you have? No disrespect to her – I’m happy for them, honestly – but how can he talk to the world about the big love of his life, while the person who should be the love of his life, his son, was barely mentioned.’
Dutch-born Lilly Becker, model, TV presenter, proud mother, was always a fiery sort – ironically it’s one of the qualities Boris finds most attractive. But today, aged 46, she is combative, tired, protective and – oh Boris, your timing was spectacularly bad – also perimenopausal.
‘Amadeus is teen-ing, so full of hormones, and I am perimenopausal so also full of hormones. If I start to lose it, Amadeus says ‘Mama, your hormones!’.’
Boris Becker of Germany pumps his arms in the air to celebrate his defeat of Kevin Curren during the Men’s Singles final of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championship on 7th July 1985
She never set out to be a single mother. Even when she and Boris split she still wanted him in her life, and her son’s.
‘Of course! A son needs a father. Even today Amadeus asks me to wrestle with him. What!? I can’t wrestle. I mean, I try, but a son needs a father.’
It’s quite sad to hear her talk about her life with Boris, which was glittering, exciting, full of riches. She loved him dearly, but it’s telling that she also thought they were soulmates. ‘He was my best friend,’ she says. ‘And a woman does not give that up easily.’
Their split was messy, complicated by egos, geography, wrangles over money, but somehow they muddled through.
There was the odd public spat but still it worked.
‘And of course it’s possible to co-parent. Lots of people do. Even if Boris isn’t allowed in the UK, there are always ways around that. They can meet halfway – literally. People do. I don’t care if Boris lives in Timbuktu, he can still see more of his son.’
It has been reported Boris is now living in Italy.
‘I don’t know where he is. He seems to be on the move a lot. I didn’t expect things to change when he came out of prison, but I kind of hoped maybe he would appreciate that I’d had to pick up his mess. A thank-you would have been great. Instead, I got the opposite – jibes from his many interviews.
‘I didn’t ask for much. Someone should have given him a book in prison about how to co-parent. He would have had time to read it. He could have learned something.’
In our chat, she is funny and self-deprecating and tells me she has – after much debate – agreed to make a documentary, telling HER full story, which will air very soon. ‘Why not?’ she says, when I ask why make a documentary now.
‘Boris gets to tell HIS story. He can have little digs at me. He gets to be selective about which parts he puts out there. It’s all glory, glory, glory, the Eighties, then it skips to now.’
Every time her ex pops up in the media, taking another step on his path to rehabilitation, and the restoration of Brand Boris, is an ‘oof’ moment for Lilly, not dissimilar to being hit by the full force of Boom Boom Becker first serve.
Isn’t the truth, though, that the public still loves Boris Becker, despite everything?
‘Yes,’ she says. ‘And, believe me, I get it. God, I get it. He’s a fantastic tennis player, a legend. He won grand slams. But let’s not promote fatherhood through him. Please!’
This brings us neatly onto the other thing Boris Becker is famous for. He has two grown-up sons – Noah and Elias, from his first marriage, to Barbara Felthus. But there is also his so-called broom cupboard baby, Anna Ermakova, who was famously conceived in a London restaurant Nobu in 1999 during a brief sexual encounter that made headlines around the world.
Anna is now 23, and seemingly on good terms with her father (she wrote a supporting statement during his trial), but Lilly is appalled that Boris is so quick to refer to the circumstances of her conception.
‘That broom cupboard thing – he is STILL going on about, as if he is proud of it. I don’t like how he has spoken about Anna. He doesn’t stop to think how it affects this girl, how her mother Angela must feel. She has my utmost respect. She had to hold her head high after all that.
‘I also don’t think it’s respectful to his other children for him to talk about that. Enough about the broom cupboard!’
What on earth will their son make of this debacle when he is old enough to be able to appraise the situation? Will she let him watch her documentary? ‘Absolutely. I am making it for Amadeus, so he can see the truth of it. My truth!’
Did Amadeus watch the documentary his father was involved with? No, he did not.
‘But that might be a good father-son bonding moment,’ she says.