Boris still throws down aces but says Murray lacks killer instinct

'Britain's favourite German' tells Alan Hubbard about his passion for poker, Ballack and Bayern Munich

In his heyday, Boris Becker was the last man you'd call poker-faced – he was an expressive player, diving around the court and verbally giving John McEnroe as good as he got. And of course, he played many a game to love, not least in a broom cupboard under the stairs at a fashionable London restaurant, though he now keeps his cards close to his chest on the subject of that famously brief encounter.

"Bonking Boris", the red-tops tabbed him when he was putting himself about with the ladies. "Vat is diss bonking?" he famously asked during a Wimbledon press conference in the late 1980s when he was not as familiar with English tabloid vernacular as he is now.

Wimbledon's wild child has had his moments as he went from the tournament's youngest winner at 17 to Britain's favourite German (according to the BBC, whose commentary box he candidly illuminates every year).

Now he wants us to know that things have changed. He has settled down, married for the third time (to Dutch model Lilly Kessenberg), yet fallen in love again – with poker. As he prepared to join 350 other players at the tables in last week's leg of the European Poker Tour in London, he flexed his fingers in anticipation and declared: "Yes, this is my new passion. It takes me back to being 20 again. The poker tour is like a tennis tour, moving from city to city. It is very competitive. You need the same sort of discipline and mental application, studying the body language of your opponent. Stamina too.

"In tennis you need to know when to go in at the net. At the poker table [you need] to watch your opponent's moves and go for a quick point to clinch the match. I think most tennis players would have a poker player's mentality."

In that case, we ventured, would Andy Murray (left) make a good poker player? More to the point, will he ever win a Grand Slam? "That's a tough one to answer. The top places have been occupied by Federer and Nadal for some time and now along comes [Juan Martin] del Potro. What they all have is that necessary killer instinct, to make the most crucial points their best points. I think Andy has that in some tournaments, but for various reasons, once he's in the quarter-final, that killer instinct goes missing. It's all about the mental approach. Federer has it, Nadal has it and Del Potro has it. But Murray? I'm not sure yet.

"The consistency is the one thing that's absent from his CV, and it bothers him. But I like him very much. I like his character, he's a very opinionated guy and I think he will win a Grand Slam sometime in the future, but he's not there yet."

It was rainy days at Wimbledon that first brought Becker to poker. "I started playing when I was playing tennis, between matches – and all those rain-breaks at Wimbledon. I loved those interruptions because then I could play cards in the locker room."

With Pokerstars he has played in high-stakes tournaments in Las Vegas and Monte Carlo, so far winning over $40,000, though he went out early in London. "To be frank, I lose more often than I win. That's the nature of the game." Reputed to be worth £60 million , surely it can't be the cash that attracts him? He grins: "I have a new wife and three children to support [not to mention two ex-wives and homes in Miami, Zurich and Wimbledon] and they've all got open hands."

For 10 years he has also been a board member of Bayern Munich, and insists he isn't just a token celebrity. "I have opinions and I make them known to Franz Beckenbauer [the club president]." So he's a genuine fan? "Oh, much more than that. I think I know more about football than the average fan. I follow the Premier League avidly." His team is Chelsea. "One of the reasons is that I'm great friends with Michael Ballack. We live in the same street in Wimbledon. I really like the way he has made himself such an important part of the team."

As Becker approaches his 42nd birthday this month, there are silver threads in his once ginger mop. But as he continues to throw down the aces there are few better qualified to offer a view on why British tennis just cannot play its cards right and produce more good players. "A lot has to do with the tennis system you have. Everyone knows Murray did not come through the ranks of the LTA. The LTA is a good organisation and Wimbledon is a great tournament and you have fine facilities, but in some structural way you are not doing the right job.

"There must be something wrong when with all the advantages here, you do not produce top-50 players each year. I don't know why but give me a month to spend talking with the responsible people at the LTA and I would be able to tell you."

Suggested Topics
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all