Embittered Becker buys a one-way ticket to America

Far from maddening German crowds, hyperactive taxmen and racial prejudice, Boris Becker fled to Florida yesterday with a one-way ticket, vowing never to return for anything other than tennis. His Heimat will henceforth be a millionaires' hideaway near Miami, where he hopes his son, Noah, will not attract attention, and the family will have the privacy they could only dream about in Bavaria.

The 29-year-old tennis star made his decision to emigrate after a raid by tax inspectors, which the Beckers claimed was akin to burglary, on his Munich house earlier this year. "Until then my house was my castle," he said. "They took away my home."

After the case of Steffi Graf's missing taxes, the authorities declared open season on all German stars suspected of salting away their foreign earnings in overseas havens. Becker denies any wrongdoing, and says he is not prepared to go through the agony of dealing with German tax-hounds for the rest of his life.

The tennis player has also become increasingly exasperated with the attention his family was receiving from stalkers, autograph-hunters and the plainly insane. The last of a fading galaxy of German stars still resident in the country, he felt he was getting more than his fair share of fame. The adoration was overwhelming, but often it took a sinister form. Threatening letters, some motivated by racist attitudes towards his black wife, Barbara, forced him to hire an army of bodyguards for his family.

Becker was particularly worried about Noah, now aged three, who he feared would have trouble blending into an all-white German environment. "My son will now grow up as a normal child - without bodyguards," he said. "In Germany that isn't possible."

Noah can certainly look forward to a multi-cultural environment, although one with limited social diversity. Home will henceforth be Fisher Island, a tiny strip of land inhabited by 400 millionaires and their servants.

Anonymity is guaranteed. With neighbours such as Sophia Loren, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Luciano Pavarotti, he can count on being left alone.

Imre Karacs, Bonn

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