Tennis has been transformed over the last five decades by TV, money, technology, equipment, fashion and politics. But through all of that, the players have remained at the heart of the game. As part of our golden anniversary celebration of the Open era, Tennis.com presents its list of 50 best players—the Top 25 men and the Top 25 women—of the last 50 years. You'll be able to view the entire list in the March/April issue of TENNIS Magazine.
(Note: Only singles results were considered; any player who won a major title during the Open era had his or her entire career evaluated; all statistics are through the 2018 Australian Open.)
13. Boris Becker
Years played: 1984-1999
Major titles: 6
In 1985, Becker arrived with a boom at Wimbledon. Two of them, in fact. “Boom Boom,” the British press dubbed the 17-year-old German, much to his annoyance. Whether he liked it or not, it was hard to find a better description of what this stout kid brought to the sport when he blasted, shimmied and lunged his way to the title that year.
Becker launched himself across the grass like a frisky puppy, and stared down his older opponents like the cocky teenager he was, but there was nothing soft or sophomoric about the way he became the youngest man to win Wimbledon. By the time Becker threw down his 21st ace in the final, the touch game that John McEnroe had used to win three of the previous four Wimbledons looked like positively genteel. The power era had arrived.
But Becker wasn’t just bashing blindly during that fortnight. He competed like a seasoned veteran, and it was the combination of his competitive brain and athletic brawn that made him more than a two-week story. Becker would win six major titles, lead Germany to two Davis Cups and top the ATP rankings for 12 weeks. While two of his rivals, Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg, spent more time at No. 1, Becker was a formidable foe for both. He finished 25-10 against Edberg, and beat Lendl in five of their six meetings at the majors.
Becker’s game heralded the onslaught of the power-baseliners, but he’ll be remembered as one of the last of the all-court attackers. Lendl was steadier, Edberg more stylish and Pete Sampras even more powerful, but Becker never lost his brash knack for mastering the moment and facing down any opponent—his 19 wins against world No. 1s has been matched only by Rafael Nadal. No one lowered the boom quite like Boris.
Defining Moment: What else could it be but Wimbledon in 1985? Becker would call July 7th, the day he won the title, his “second birthday.” Every “crisis,” he told the London Times about that life-changing, sport-changing run, was met with a “miracle” from his racquet.
Watch: Boris Becker wins the 1985 Wimbledon title
This Week on Tennis Channel Plus 2/12
ATP Buenos Aires (Feb. 14-18)
-Watch Tennis Channel Plus live coverage of Dominic Thiem and Argentina Open beginning Monday February 12 at 12 p.m. ET.
-Can’t make it to Buenos Aires? Watch every match from the Argentina Open on-demand with Tennis Channel Plus.
ATP Rotterdam (Feb. 13-14)
-Don’t miss extended ATP Rotterdam Court 1 coverage live on Tennis Channel Plus Tuesday February 13 at 6 a.m. ET.
SUBSCRIBE TO TENNIS CHANNEL PLUS at tennischannel.com/subscribe