Being a 17 years old is an interesting time, you’re poised on the cusp of adulthood – experiencing freedom for the first time and trying to balance that with your teenage years. For myself, that meant lots of loitering and bad fake IDs, but in 1985 for a young Boris Becker that translated to becoming the first undseeded player to win a Wimbledon Singles Final. It was an extraordinary accomplishment, and the start of an illustrious career for Becker. This year Puma pay homage to the athlete by re-issuing the Boris Becker OG, the sneaker that carried him to victory. We caught some time with the tennis legend while he was in town to celebrate the re-release of the iconic sneaker.
You were the first unseeded player to win a Wimbledon Singles final, that’s a pretty amazing accomplishment. How did that feel?
At the time it felt special. Obviously I wasn’t supposed to win Wimbledon at the age of 17. Now looking back, it almost looks unthinkable that I was able to do that. Watching old footage and my other matches, I think “Damn I was so young, how did I do that?” [Laughs.]
You were just a teenager, how drastically did your life change from that moment?
I decided to become a professional tennis player at the age of 16, then obviously your dreams and aspirations are that you want to become successful. I didn’t think it was going to happen that quickly. Being involved in it, you don’t think about it too much because you want to go on and win the next tournament and you want to get up you’re ranking and so forth. It’s only when you take a break, even more so when you don’t play anymore, that you look back and you go “Damn, I was pretty good.” [Laughs.]
Not many people get to pursue their dream career at sixteen years old.
Yeah, It was a risk I was taking. Obviously my parents wanted me to finish school. In those days, nobody really became professional that young. But I was already good enough as a junior, and mature enough in my head. I was able to live a professional life as a teenager. I mean, I have teenage sons of my own and I can’t imagine them living on their own and just being really disciplined every single day. The more difficult thing to do is to sustain it and do it year after year, because then you’re obviously under more pressure to defend your titles and to keep your rankings up.
At such an elite level how do you gain an advantage on your opponent?
You gain an advantage by working harder and being smarter, and having great coaches and people around me who taught me important things about tennis and about life. At the end of the day, you have to enjoy what you do – otherwise you wont be able to do it for long. I’m happy I didn’t have so called ‘tennis parents’ or family who were pushing me every week. I was able to come home and be just a ‘son’, and that goes a long way.
How much of it is mental?
A lot, I’m not sure about the percentage, but a lot. Once your able to play professionally the difference between [ranks] one and 20 aren’t that big. But honestly, I think you have to have a different attitude, a different mindset. You have to be a bit more disciplined, a bit stronger and that’s all because of your mind and your head.
Can you tell me about the shoe?
As you can see its a half-top, it was one of the first shoes ever that were half-tops. I needed it for my aggressive serve and volley game, I put a lot of pressure on my ankles and I twisted them a couple of times. But I felt this shoe was more protective for me just to go 100 percent into my volleys, and I liked the look. Tennis’ dominant colour is white, even though it’s a bit more colourful now. But at the end of the day, it’s a sport that the colour white dominates. Having shoes with the red logo, I thought they looked cool then and I think they look cool now.
Yeah, they really transcended the tennis world and got into the style side of things, did you every think you’d be a style icon as well?
No, my main focus was the sport. People liked my style, and that was a compliment but that’s not something you set out to achieve because then you become a bit too fashion conscious. I think the bottom line is, you want to be successful with a certain style, and if that’s popular, well then great.
I’ve seen your son wearing the shoes as well, it must be a pretty amazing experience to be able to share something like that with him.
Well he wasn’t born when I was winning Wimbledon, so for him to actually like the shoe very much, as a father, I’m proud of that. He’s a musician now; he’s got his own life. He’s a very cool guy and for him to participate is a great compliment.
The Boris Becker OG is available now globally at premium CREAM stockists via the Puma Selects program, as well as Platypus Shoes.