A slight nod and a brief smile — that is how Boris Becker in a television ad looks at the defining moment of his tennis career: the Wimbledon title in 1985.
Wednesday marks the 25th anniversary of the moment that changed his life forever and introduced average Germans to the sport.
“The victory was my personal lunar landing,” says Becker. “On the one hand it appears like yesterday. On the other hand it seems like 100 years ago.” Becker’s triumph over South African Kevin Curren is one where in Germany the question “where were you, when...” is appropriate.
The teenager had gripped a nation and 11 million Germans were glued to their televisions on that Sunday, July 7, when Becker stepped up for his second match point after double-faulting on the first.
A service winner followed as Becker completed the 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Curren, who had been rated favourite after disposing of Stefan Edberg, holder John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in the previous rounds.
The victory made Becker the first German Wimbledon champion, the first unseeded and the youngest in tournament history aged 17 years and 227 days.
His home town of Leimen became the centre of Germany and many recall how his father Karl-Heinz Becker was snapping away as Becker received the trophy and chatted with the Duchess and Duke of Kent.
“I always said the day was my second birthday because I became very famous and very rich through it. I had many advantages, but some disadvantages as well. Any kind of private life has been impossible since that day,” says Becker.
Girlfriends, the wedding with Barbara Becker, the birth of their two children, their divorce years later and an extramarital affair which gave him another daughter made the headlines just as a tax evasion case.
On court, Becker captivated Germans with two more Wimbledon titles, two at the Australian Open and one US Open, a brief reign as world number one and the first two of now three German Davis Cup titles.
Becker ignited the German tennis boom, which also featured the even more successful Steffi Graf and his fierce rival Michael Stich.
Stich’s victory over Becker in the 1991 and his success in their Hamburg final a few years later rate as some of Becker’s most painful defeats. But they also won Olympic doubles gold together in 1992.
The tennis hype in Germany has long subsided, there are no new top star players and hardly any tournaments left in the country.
But when Germans tune to the rare tennis broadcasts these days, they can still hear the phrases “Becker-fist” and “Becker-leap” being used by the commentators.
Becker always called the Wimbledon centre court his “living room.” He compiled an overall 71-12 record at the famous venue and featured in a total seven finals until his farewell 1999.
He still returns each year, now as a BBC pundit, and last week celebrated the 25th anniversary of his breakthrough with a party in a posh London club.
“I am not really a nostalgic person, but I do have to look back a little, maybe even sob a little,” he says.