Boris Becker racquets
One of the favourite stories frequently narrated at the company headquarters of Puma is the beginning of the collaboration with German tennis wunderkind Boris Becker. Until mid 1984, Becker was contracted with Adidas, playing an Adidas GTX Pro. As the contract expired, Becker asked Horst Dassler, the son of adidas founder Adi Dassler, for a new contract. While Becker`s sort of morose Manager, Romanian Ion Tiriac, at that time didn`t yet demand 40 million Mark, he already was very convinced of a bright future for Becker and called for much more money than before. But Horst Dassler rejected Tiriac`s claim – Adidas even was not willing to spend 100.000 Mark on a 17 years-old. Tiriac abandoned the negotiations and together with his protégé drove to the Würzburgerstraße (Puma`s company headquarters). At the reception, they asked for an appointment with Armin Dassler who had meanwhile succeeded his deceased father Rudolf Dassler. Armin Dassler spontaneously received them and Tiriac said to Dassler: “Take this Boris, then you can tease your cousin Horst a little bit.” Well, Armin Dassler didn`t hesitate to follow Tiriac`s recommendation...
The following year, Becker surprisingly won Wimbledon, turning out to be a true cash cow to Puma, the best and most lucrative athlete star they ever had under contract. After Becker`s first wimbledon title, Puma sold 150,000 racquets per year instead of 15,000. At Wimbledon 1985, however, Becker still played the Puma G. Vilas - after Becker had won the title, Puma immediately launched the Puma Boris Becker Winner which was fully identical with the G. Vilas model, apart from the inscription, so Puma actually simply renamed the G. Vilas model as Boris Becker Winner. With his two Wimbledon titles of 1985 and 1986, Becker helped Puma become one of the world market leaders for tennis racquets. In April 1986, Becker got a new Puma contract for five years (1987 till 1992) with a volume of 28.5 million Mark (and Adidas did not want to pay him 100.000 per year…), however, the deal partly was performance-related, in each year, Becker had to rank in the top ten, otherwise he gradually would have lost money (up to 70%, in case of scoring worse than rank 50). Remaining in the top ten each year, Becker should receive annually increasing payments, 3.5 million Mark in the first year and 6 million Mark in the last year. The contract also obliged Becker to wear Puma clothes and shoes - Becker in Puma from tip to toe.
Of course the racquets played by Becker were the by far most popular ones: Puma Boris Becker Winner and Puma Boris Becker Super (his racquet at Wimbledon 1986). Becker`s personal Boris Becker Winner racquets were customised versions made with 50% graphite, whereas the serial production model as sold on the market contained merely 30% graphite. The Boris Becker Super with 50% graphite, introduced in 1986, was nothing else than a paintjob of the customised Becker Winner that Boris had played right from the beginning. But now also the public could buy a Puma Becker racquet with 50% graphite.
But already In July 1988, Puma quitted the Becker contract, out of two reasons: On the one hand, Becker, still a very young man, showed a bad behaviour on the court, often blustering and whining. His hero image got chapped, the racquet sales figures had considerably decreased and the Puma Boris Becker fashion line (also a part of this contract) proved to be a flop. On the other hand, Puma had balance problems on the crucial US market. In the autumn of 1987, Hans Woitschätzke became Pumas`s new executive chairman, and one of his radical measures was to cancel the Becker contract. Becker then contracted with Fila for clothes and Diador for shoes. He kept on playing the Boris Becker Super (without Puma logo on the strings). In March 1990 he got contracted with Taiwanese company Estusa (until 1995). For five years, Becker pocketed 20 million Marks – less than potentially with Puma, but nevertheless he wasn`t stricken with poverty, was he? However, Becker continued playing the Boris Becker Super, with the Estusa logo sprayed onto the strings, because he was not satisfied with the first version of the Estusa Boris Becker B ProVantech PB. It was not before 1991 that Becker finally turned to the Estusa racquet. But Becker`s longtime stringer Uli Kühnel in an interview stated that Becker in fact played the Estusa racquet for only about four months...
Boris Becker playing Puma Boris Becker Winner and Boris Becker Super.
The publication permission is strictly restricted to 80s-tennis.com.
When Becker`s contract with Estusa had ended, he let his own BB racquet line be produced by Austrian company Head, in close cooperation with legendary racquet stringer Uli Kühnel. These were customised racquets, manufactured to the specifications of and with guidance by Uli Kühnel. 500 hundred racquets were produced exclusively for Boris Becker, but also 3.100 pieces for public sale in 1997, marketed as "Boris Becker Worldchampion Racket" that came complete with certificate and with autograph signed biography board.
Boris Becker Worldchampion Racket
Some Boris Becker collector items
First Estusa Boris Becker racquet version: BB ProVantech PB (1990)
Puma Estusa 1990 Wimbledon Limited Edition ProVantech PB
(Article presented with exclusive permission by Tennis Magazin. Taken from Tennis Magazin August issue 1990.
The publication permission is strictly restricted to 80s-tennis.com.)
Boris Becker racquet gallery