dc88steeb_wilander

Points won by each set: [ 58-65, 17-32, 28-13, 36-30, 42-44 ]
Points won directly on serve:
11 % Steeb – 20 of 175
11 % Wilander – 22 of 190

On paper it looked like a very probable 4-1 or 3-2 win for Sweden (admittedly the Davis Cup beast Becker had a positive record over Wilander, but lost to him easily their two clay-court matches). Among all potential combinations pondering about the tie, Steeb’s [74] win over Wilander was the least expected. The Swede [1] had enjoyed great season, winning his only previous meeting against the German (but in three sets, the same year in Rome). Steeb wasn’t intimidated though, he broke first (in the fifth game) after a firm overhead. He led 4:2* (40/15), later wasted three set points on serve at 7:6 (the first one after 35-stroke rally), so losing a set like this drastically decreased his chances – Wilander had a 13-2 record in deciders that year. As expected, the Swede easily took the 2nd set, but then strange things happened in the 3rd set when he lost six straight games from 2-all (24:4 for Steeb in total points!). Wilander snapped the streak, levelled at 2-all in the 4th and since then, to the end it was a dogfight. The Swede was six points away from a 4-set win at 4-all (30-all) when Steeb fired an ace. In the middle of the decider, Wilander collected 11 successive points and his victory seemed obvious again as he led 5:3 on return. Yet he couldn’t serve the match out twice – first at 5:4 when broken at 15, then at 6:5 when held a match point which Steeb fought off with a risky forehand return. That shot changed the tone of the encounter – the German kept his aggressive mindset while Wilander couldn’t handle the pressure. Steeb converted his first match point with a combination of another aggressive FH return and a nailing smash. Wilander’s first lost five-setter, after seven won in a row. The match lasted 4:57 hrs, exactly the same as Wilander’s other Davis Cup rubber in 1988 vs Yannick Noah (the Swede played 56 games against the Frenchman, 57 against the German). Stats of a doubles clincher… Wilander and Steeb face each other in the Davis Cup final also in 1989, the Swede prevails 5-7, 7-6(0), 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-3 after 4 hours 24 minutes on carpet in Germany (Steeb rallied from 3:5 in both sets he won; in the 2nd set trailed *2:5 & saved four set points before the tie-break).

Serve & volley: Steeb 4/7, Wilander 7/13

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