well, this topic could probably fill many pages... for most people, Kiefer's bad image was existent since right of the beginning of his career, but at the beginning he could overshadow most of it with wins and good results.
Kiefer is a person who is very -I don't know the correct translation, but I think the English word that matches it best is- reclusive. I would not say shy or quiet, but he can be difficult to approach and he prefers to be alone and completely seal off himself from the rest. To many people he is just a miracle and he was saying many times that only his best friends and his family know how he really is ("If you know me closely, you have no problems with me at all"). Something like that can be easily misinterpreted by many people.
Also keep in mind that Kiefer while playing a tennis match and his behaviour on-court is quite contradictive to what he is in private life. He can make it quite easy for not so well-informed spectators who don't know jackshit about his personality or about his backgrounds to hate him: he is breaking rackets, his is abusing balls, he is swearing, he is rudely arguing with the refs/linespersons, he doesn't mind getting the crowd against his side, he shows no interest, he may be a bad loser from time to time... now you could probably say that most of these things listed were equally true for Boris Becker who was almost the whole nation's darling and yes, you are right, but despite Becker's tempter in his matches, he had the sort of humour and charisma to make people forgive him more and he had the best successes early in his career on his side; something that definitely helped him because it's less likely that a winner guy who was one of the best German athletes at this time has such a bad image like it was reputed on Kiefer. Kiefer, on the other hand, IMO was never somebody who had a good contact with the media and he was never somebody who knew how to sell himself the best way possible when talking to the media. Becker wasn't a very eloquent guy either (he often almost stattered, was searching for words, or used many filling words like "äh"), but he understood well how to relax the atmosphere of an interview, he was good for fun or for some funny remarks.
Well, as you see in all that written above, combined with the missing achievements in his career after 2000, Kiefer made it easy and offered quite a lot of working surface for all his haters, doubters and maybe even neutral people.
I will list you, in my opinion, the most important factors why Kiwi was for many people somebody with a bad image, or as the newspaper said it in 2001, why he was titulated as "the athlete with the worst image in Germany":
- he has the reputation to be "advice-resistent", meaning he tends to not accepting advices from people who want to tell him something good
- had a catfight and heavy quarrel with Boris Becker as Becker was captain of the Davis Cup team
- he left the Mercedes Benz Junior Team for young promising German tennis talents which was founded by Becker and which was interpreted as a personal insult to Becker
- he got blown off the court by Becker in 1999 at Wimbledon in straight sets and didn't give enough credit to Becker's play; something that is not very clever and that created many enemies among the German people and media
- throughout his career he changed his coaches and managers like other people change their daily shirt; this only aggravated and confirmed people who thought he is untouchable for advices and that it's almost impossible to coach him or to work together with him
- in his bad years, he had many bad losses, many lethargic and pathetic matches
- he was not enough self-critical with his own game and his person, he often blamed other things, he often blandished bad matches, he did not admit enough mistakes
- he didn't scrutinize/question his being as a tennis pro on the tour closely enough; he used to hang around on the Tour some years without the impression and without people letting know that he wants to get out of this hole.
- for some time he didn't show interest in the Davis Cup at all, for most people of course unacceptable
- he withdraw from the Davis Cup ties in 1999/2000 against Romania and the Netherlands, something what was against heavily critizised in public, he almost completely broke up with the German tennis federation at that time, due to that unpatriotic behaviour he was close to be disqualified for the Olympic Games 2000.
- he did not only lose many (important) Davis Cup matches, but he lost most matches in a pathetic way, something that is your death if you're playing for a success-spoiled country like Germany that was once used to the great success of Becker, Stich, Kühnen, Steeb etc.... not having 100% support on your side in Davis Cup is sort of the worst thing that can happen to you; he couldn't persuade people he was at least trying even when losing and he failed to regain lost bonus
- most of the points mentioned above, esp. the handling of the media and saying some stupid things
you see, it's quite a big patchwork of reasons (and I'm sure I forgot some points) that contributed to give him a bad image, but with the way the current year is going, I think that he is on a very good way to neutralize most of these points with good news about him and if you're watching a Kiefer match in 2004, you most likely see a different player playing tennis than some years ago. The turning point clearly came at the end of 2003, with his new coach, Thomas Hogstedt. Somehow Hogstedt must have found a way to directly address and tell Kiefer what he is doing wrong and even more importantly, Kiefer accepts him and realised that his coach is right.
For me, he is a very good person with a good heart and exciting tennis
I'm supporting him since many years and even though I had almost completely cut down all my expectations because of his drought of success in the years 2001, 2002 and 2003, he has recently given me great hope that he can still be sussessful tennis player who has not unlearnt how to win and his many good matches and results this year so far are a kind of reward he is giving to me and lots of other fans for supporting him even in bad times
okay, go on Kiwi!!!