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December 22, 2000

Becker files for divorce as split turns nasty

Former tennis star accused of fathering child after tryst Canadian initiative

National Post, with files from news services

MUNICH - Barely two weeks after he announced he and his wife were separating, three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, 33, is filing for divorce.

The move comes as the split turns acrimonious. Barbara Becker, also 33, who is living in the couple's US$3-million condo on Miami's Fisher Island, has filed an injunction to prevent her husband from taking their two sons, Noah, 6, and Elias, 1, out of the United States.

In addition, the former tennis star is battling accusations of a child fathered out of wedlock and that he has a new girlfriend.

Russian Angela Ermakova told a British newspaper last week Mr. Becker fathered her nine-month-old baby girl after a tryst in the broom closet of a London restaurant.

The blue-eyed, ginger-haired child bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Becker, the News of the World reported.

"He is the father of my child. I haven't been able to reach an agreement with him, so I have no option than to go to court," Ms. Ermakova said.

There are also rumours Mr. Becker is having an affair with German rap star Sabrina Setlur. He has been seen dining with the singer, whom he says is a family friend.

In Munich yesterday, court spokesman Michael Haussner confirmed Mr. Becker had filed for divorce on Dec. 15, two days before the couple's seventh wedding anniversary.

In her suit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit court on Dec. 12, Ms. Becker asked the court to force her husband to pay alimony and child support, though at that stage there was no talk of a divorce.

She has no income of her own, having taken time off from her career as a model and a singer to look after the children.

The court filing describes how the family were dependent on Mr. Becker for financial support and accustomed to "extremely high standards of living" as he never restricted his wife's spending.

Since the separation, however, he is reported to have cancelled her credit cards and fired her personal bodyguard.

Ms. Becker, who is the daughter of an American and a German, left Germany soon after the couple announced their separation and took the children to their Florida vacation home.

Bunte, the German equivalent of People magazine, reported Mr. Becker had mentioned the couple's prenuptial agreement in his countersuit, which states his wife would receive US$2.3-million if they divorced.

However, German media have estimated she could get four times that if the case is heard in Miami.

News weekly Der Spiegel reported in an advance copy of today's edition that the couple would appear in a Miami court on Jan. 8, but Mr. Becker has disputed a U.S. court's jurisdiction in the case.

Ms. Becker's decision to remain in the United States could also be the result of Germany's child custody laws.

German courts are notorious for flouting international treaties, enabling some parents to prevent their divorced spouses from having access to their children for years. One celebrated case is that of Lady Meyer, wife of Britain's ambassador to Washington. Despite court orders in her favour, she has seen her sons Alexander, 15, and Constantin, 13, for a total of 24 hours since her German former husband refused to send them home after a summer holiday visit in August, 1994.

The case even led to the intervention of Bill Clinton, the U.S. President, who lobbied Gerhard Schroeder, the German chancellor, in May.

The Beckers had been one of Germany's most glamorous and popular couples. The news of their separation has received microscopic attention in the country's press.

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