'Becker Wrecker', Peter Doohan dies aged 56 after battle with motor neuron disease

BECKER WRECKER: Newcastle tennis player Peter Doohan died on Friday after a short battle with Motor Neurone Disease.
BECKER WRECKER: Newcastle tennis player Peter Doohan died on Friday after a short battle with Motor Neurone Disease.

HUNTER tennis great Peter Doohan has died at the age of 56.

Dubbed the ‘Becker Wrecker’ after famously defeating two-time defending champion Boris Becker in 1987 at Wimbledon, Doohan reached a career-high world ranking of No.43.

He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of motor neurone disease in May.

Doohan's brother-in-law, Ashley Roff, said the family had already been overwhelmed by condolences pouring in from across the country. 

Doohan had been in palliative care for several weeks and his passing on Friday did not come as a surprise to the family.  

But Mr Roff said it had been "terrible" to witness the speed at which Doohan's condition had deteriorated in the last two months. 

"He went downhill pretty rapidly," Mr Roff said. "He died nine weeks after his diagnosis. Normally, with motor neurone disease you get two to three years." 

Tennis Australia led the tributes to the former David Cup star, who was born in Newcastle and has been living in Nelson Bay.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends," Tennis Australia said in a statement. “Peter was unbeaten in Davis Cup representation. He won the South Australian Open singles title and reached No.15 in doubles, winning five titles during his distinguished career. Following his retirement, Peter coached in the United States, after first studying at the University of Arkansas, where he was all-American and a NCAA champion. He returned to live in Australia in 2009. A moving tribute to Peter, led by former Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald, along with a fundraising auction, were featured at the annual International Club Wimbledon Dinner at Kooyong last week.”

Doohan spent his formative years at Merewether High School, playing tennis at District Park in Broadmeadow on weekends under the guidance of coach Frank Brent.

After turning professional, he spent 20 years playing and coaching in the United States. He was based in Arkansas, where his sons John and Hunter still live.

Doohan returned to Nelson Bay in 2009 and coached up until June last year. 

He is survived by his mother Thelma, his sons John (26) and Hunter (23), both based in the United States, and sisters Cathie and Margaret.

Doohan’s funeral will be held in Newcastle with details yet to be confirmed.