Raducanu and Alcaraz put on alert as Becker warns tennis ‘whiz kids’

Emma Raducanu and Carlos Alcaraz must learn from Boris Becker’s mistakes as the German discussed the downsides of being a tennis “whiz kid”. The pair both followed in Becker’s footsteps by winning a Grand Slam as a teenager. And they will want to be on alert after the 55-year-old explained how being a young tennis star “plunged [him]into self-indulgence.”

Becker has been increasingly candid about his downfall after being released from prison. The former world No 1 was sentenced to 30 months after being found guilty of four charges relating to his bankruptcy and was deported after just eight.

He is the subject of a new Apple TV+ documentary chronicling his tennis career and beyond, and has been open about the impact of being a teenage tennis sensation. It’s something Raducanu and Alcaraz will want to take note of after becoming two of the sport’s biggest young stars.

“I became a tennis champion practically overnight,” Becker – who won his first Wimbledon title aged 17 – told Brazilian outlet Veja. “I became a teen sensation, and the media called me a whiz kid. But it is very difficult to live with the title of sports magician.”

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The six-time Major champion also admitted that he was always compared to his teenage self – something Raducanu has dealt with after winning the 2021 US Open as an 18-year-old qualifier. It was her fourth professional event and the Brit has not beyond the semi-final of a tournament since.

“Everything I did afterwards was compared to the achievements of my early career, and that weight became too much for me,” Becker said. “I suddenly became one of the most recognizable faces in sports and the world, and it plunged me into self-indulgence, brought me closer to the wrong people, and led to business decisions I would later regret.”

Alcaraz’s rise was steadier as he won titles at all ATP levels – 250, 500 and Masters 1000 – before winning the US Open and becoming world No 1. But the 19-year-old can also take heed of Becker’s warnings about being a young champion.

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The German tennis legend continued: “Becoming a champion at such a young age was like an overwhelming storm. No one around me was really prepared for this – not even me.” Becker went on to discuss the financial difficulties of winning at a young age, adding: “I don’t believe that a young athlete should focus on money. 

“He has his parents and other relatives to take care of it. But once you get to the top, the amount of money you make is so great that you have to surround yourself with professionals to manage your business.”

But based on his own experience, Becker said that not everyone had the player’s interests at heart. “As necessary as they are, these career managers have their own interests—and they don’t always coincide with the athlete’s. In my case, as a tennis player, I had to focus on training and discipline to face difficult tournaments, and I had no choice but to trust who managed my winnings. Some of us are lucky in that and some are not,” he stated.

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