This article first appeared on n-tv.de.
Michael Stich and Boris Becker, that was a great German tennis rivalry in the 1990s. Stich beat Becker in the 1991 Wimbledon final, in Leimener's living room. For Stich it was the greatest success of his career, for Becker, who won the tournament three times, it was one of his most bitter sporting defeats. But Becker probably experienced his hardest hours more than 30 years later: in 2022, the tennis legend was in prison for 231 days in England for bankruptcy offenses. And Michael Stich got in touch.
In an interview with the "Financial Times", Becker reported on a grand gesture by his former rival: Stich wrote him a three-page letter to jail. "Heartfelt, emotional, kindhearted. I read it and cried. This guy I've always hated wrote me the best letter in prison!" The letters got him thinking: "Yes, I've made some mistakes, but I must have done some good things too!"
In 1992, both were welded together for the German doubles for the Olympic Games, off the pitch there was still aversion. In those days he had to lie a lot in many one-on-one conversations to keep both of them happy, the former Davis Cup team boss Niki Pilic once revealed in an interview with the "Süddeutsche Zeitung". Nevertheless, Becker and Stich won gold together. They never became friends. Just a few hours after the triumph, they went their separate ways: when Becker celebrated with the German team in the evening, Stich was already on the plane home. He had "no desire" for happy hours of social interaction. The "Spieler Stich" remained true to itself. Becker also: "We just don't like each other."
After the end of their careers, the relationship between the two relaxed: "Boris and I are both totally relaxed about the past. We know that we owe each other a lot and, despite all the competition, have stimulated each other," reported Stich 2020 DAZN. But a large German tennis alliance was never in sight. "We were competitors who came from the same country. The expectation that we must like each other just because we both come from Germany was completely absurd."
He himself, as Becker said in 2018, had "gone from being an individual athlete to becoming more of a team athlete. Not everyone has made this leap. I need my team, my players, my officials to make the whole thing work. As I've heard, Michael is doing It's hard to understand that you're only strong in a group."