The irony can’t be lost on Boris Becker: that the prison where he has started his sentence is less than four kilometres from Wimbledon’s Centre Court where he once played to adoring crowds and became the world No 1.
How far the disgraced German tennis champ has fallen since those heady days back in 1985.
The 54-year-old’s humiliation was complete when he recently arrived at Wandsworth Prison after a London court sentenced him to two-and-a-half years for hiding £2,5 million (about R50m) of assets and loans to avoid paying his debts.
READ MORE | Boris Becker’s fall from grace: from tennis great to convicted fraudster who will spend more than two years in jail
Becker, a six-time Grand Slam champion, was found guilty of four charges under the Insolvency Act relating to his bankruptcy in 2017.
After sentencing he was led to a prison van for the 45-minute drive to the notoriously tough prison in South West London.
Prison sources say Boris may only be in Wandsworth for a short while before being moved to a lower-security prison for the majority of the term.
However, he may only end up serving 10 months if he’s let out early, which will mean he will have to wear an electronic tag for the remainder of his sentence.
Certainly for someone used to the comforts of the high life, Wandsworth Prison, with its overcrowding, poor conditions and rat infestations, will take some getting used to.
Often described as one of the UK's worse jails, the 170-year old Victorian brick structure with its 1 300 inmates is a bleak and depressing place.
After a three-day induction, Boris will be given his own cell, a prison source said. The tiny space has a concrete floor, a toilet with no seat or privacy curtain and a plastic mattress.
If he is lucky he may be moved to H-Wing dubbed The Ritz by inmates. Boris may get extra perks if he becomes a listener, those trained to help other inmates to reduce self-harm and suicide.
Life inside the institution was exposed two years ago by ex-prisoner-turned-writer and Bafta winning filmmaker Chris Atkins who called it “one of the most notorious jails in the country”.
“The first thing that hits me is the noise,” he wrote about his incarceration for tax evasion in 2016. “Yelling, banging, screaming, grunting, barking, threatening, ranting, laughing, whining, arguing, fighting, howling, crying. It was as if someone has downloaded every single sound effect and is blaring them all at once.”
He also described it as being “full of the most terrifying individuals I've ever seen”.
A report this year confirmed a prison blighted with drug abuse and mental health problems where “desperately bored” inmates spend more than 22 hours in run-down cells.
While the food is said to be relatively good, overcrowding means that meals are simply left outside cell doors and the trolleys used to transport the food are filthy, says Chris.
Violence among inmates is rampant with almost one attack recorded per day from 2020-21.
“Wandsworth is very violent but if you keep your head down and don't get involved in drugs and debt and all the politics of the wings it is not actually that dangerous. Just stay out of the way.
“He is probably going to be inundated with people wanting his autograph.”
One former prison guard says Becker could “do himself a favour” by trying to get a working role while in the jail.
“I reckon he would make a good gym instructor,” Jerry Petherick told The Sun. “Gyms are very popular in prisons – it’s a job a lot of prisoners want.”
But it is unlikely Becker will be able to step into such a role any time soon. New inmates typically need to be in the prison for at least six weeks, showing good behaviour, before being considered for working roles.
The former tennis ace was working as a coach and BBC tennis commentator in recent years before his fall from grace.
Fellow Wimbledon champion Andy Murray (34) says while he does “feel sorry” that Becker is in his current position, he must pay for what he did.
“I don’t feel particularly emotional about it. He broke the law and if you do that, I don’t think think you should get special treatment because of who you are or what you’ve achieved.
“I feel sorry that he’s in that situation though and I feel sorry for the people that he’s affected with his decisions.”
Current world No 1 Novak Djokovic (34), who Becker coached from 2014 to 2016, is far more sympathetic.
“I am just heartbroken for him. He’s a friend, long-time friend, a coach for three, four years, someone I consider close in my life and has contributed a lot to my success in my career.
“I’m not going to get into details of the verdict, because I’m not in a position to do that, but as his friend, I’m super sad for him. It’s not much that you can say.”
Sources: dailymail.co.uk, mirror.co.uk