Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker traces a tennis star’s epic fall [Apple TV+ review]


Tennis champ Boris Becker takes aim at a ball in archival footage from sports docuseries ★★☆☆
Nothing could stop Boris Becker's rocket ride to the top of tennis.
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ ReviewNew Apple TV+ docuseries Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker centers on a famous tennis player embroiled in a scandal. Directed by prolific but utterly predictable documentarian Alex Gibney, the two-part series charts the rise and fall of the youngest Wimbledon champion in history.

Debuting today on Apple TV+, the straight-ahead documentary goes from Boris Becker’s historic wins to his similarly historic losses on the world stage thanks to dicey financial decisions. And it does so in the most formulaic fashion possible. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s no ace, either.

Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker review

Who is Boris Becker, I hear you asking? You’ll hear that question, too, in the opening seconds of this new Apple TV+ sports documentary. Well, when we meet Becker, he’s on trial for his life. What did he do? How did he get here? Where did all his money go?

Let’s flash back to 1985. Becker, then a hot young German tennis maverick, faced Kevin Curran at Wimbledon, the Super Bowl of tennis. Becker loses the coin toss, so Curran gets first serve. As the match unfolds, it looks like Curran will wrap up a victory. But then Becker starts playing so aggressively that it starts to rattle the more seasoned Curran. Becker’s beyond nervous, but he tells himself he can do it if he gets one more serve.

Ultimately, Becker won — and became an overnight sensation. A hero in his native Germany, he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. And his nickname, “Boom Boom,” quickly became ubiquitous in the sports press. He was 17 years old at the time — the youngest player to win Wimbledon.

Making a tennis champ

Becker was a tennis champion from the age of 7. Becker’s coach, Günther Bosch, was friends with sports agent Ion Țiriac, who had already taken on some very famous clients in the tennis world, and he persuaded Țiriac to manage Becker. Țiriac was impressed with Becker’s work ethic, his full-body sense of play. He played ferociously, like his hero Björn Borg, the original bad boy of tennis.

Becker grew up 10 miles down the road from Steffi Graf, a frequent sparring partner. He dropped out of school at age 16 to focus on the game. And he went from the upstart schoolboy of tennis to one of its rarefied stars in no time at all. Borg, Johan Kriek, Mats Wilander and John McEnroe were all impressed by his powerful serve and his technique, which involved dramatically diving for the ball like he was on the football pitch.

However, Becker’s game started to fall apart in the 1990s. He became addicted to sleeping pills and fired Bosch. As Becker’s behavior became more erratic, he knew things couldn’t last. But he held out for the 1991 Australian Open. He beat Ivan Lendl and became the No. 1 tennis player in the world. Becker told himself if he won Wimbledon later that year he’d retire, but he lost to Michael Stich, another German rising star.

Boris Becker gets into trouble off the tennis court

Throughout all this time, Becker remained ignorant of his own finances. He let Țiriac handle that until he got tired of him. The blustery Romanian advised his young client to live in Monaco, a famous tax shelter. But Becker left, fired Țiriac, got married and seemed happy.

Then, in 2002, he was indicted for tax evasion. The headlines would not relent. Becker says a journalist friend once told him three things move papers in Germany: Adolf Hitler, the reunification of Germany and Boris Becker.

Over time, Becker got taken in by charlatans with bunk business ideas. He fathered a child out of wedlock, which resulted in a costly divorce. His business manager robbed him blind. Eventually, Becker went bankrupt and did jail time for tax fraud. The mighty tennis star fell, and fell hard.

Alex Gibney, our documentary auteur

Tennis champ Boris Becker with a tennis racket and three tennis balls in an archival shot from sports docuseries "Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker," premiering April 7, 2023 on Apple TV+.
Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker packs plenty of archival materials, just as you’d expect.
Photo: Apple TV+

Alex Gibney,  folks, the guy’s trouble. Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker is his first directorial effort for Apple TV+ (after producing The Line, a dreadful documentary about Iraq war crimes, for the streaming service a few years back).

Gibney, the self-described Rainer Werner Fassbinder of documentaries, is, in fact, no such thing. He overuses his music cues, drives his themes home with a jackhammer, and relies on the most obvious editing ideas because he knows his audience.

I’ve said before that we are in a world-historic bad moment for American documentary, and Gibney’s proficiency and popularity is but one symptom. The insidious thing is he isn’t bad. He just knows what people want and gives it to them: formally staid things that rely on the public’s hunger for freak shows and downfalls.

Gibney’s basically been making the same movie since 1997, 50 times over. This one opens with music cues by Ennio Morricone and Muddy Waters, meant to suggest the movies of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese, respectively. I call that cheating. Gibney would probably disagree. Anything for the impact. Anything for the moment.

A time-tested template for conventional documentaries

That’s not the worst attitude to have, but Gibney himself has yet to show me any part of his own personality in these movies. And that makes me wonder what, if anything, this man believes in. I know what documentarians like Frederick Wiseman, Robert Greene, Kristen Johnson and Wang Bing believe in. I know how they think, how they relate to the world, what they view the purpose of a camera to be.

And yet Gibney remains a cypher after 50 movies. A guy who knows a good story when he hears one … then relates it to you in exactly the way anyone would. He’s a human Wikipedia article.

So yes, this mini-series is entertaining, it’s informative, and it’s got great footage of classic tennis matches (something I’ve become a huge fan of since discovering William Klein’s marvelous documentary The French about the 1981 French Open). But it’s also got bog-standard talking heads, labored metaphors, a gunfighting throughline that goes nowhere, gratuitous clips of other people’s movies, too much music and too aggressive sound design. And it draws zero conclusions you couldn’t have come to on your own.

As long as you know you’ll be getting the story and nothing else, you’ll have a better time with Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker than I did.


Watch Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker on Apple TV+

You can now watch Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at


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