June 25, 1990; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $2,670,863; Surface – Grass
Definitely the biggest grass-court specialists before Pete Sampras’ emergence, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker met for the third consecutive year in the final. It was the last edition in which Ivan Lendl – for whom winning Wimbledon turned into an obsession – had a reasonable chance to take the title (he’d skipped the clay-court season devoting himself entirely to the grass-court preparation, and won a warm-up event in Queens Club outplaying McEnroe & Becker!). One of the biggest Wimbledon legends, John McEnroe was beaten in the first round for the first time since 1978. Prior to the tournament McEnroe claimed he would win it, despite he had not won a title almost a year. Two-time champion, Jimmy Connors pulled out of the tournament for the first time in 20 (!) years, but he appeared in London as NBC commentator.
First round: Mike Davis
John McEnroe was blown out of Wimbledon today, his earliest exit from the tournament he won three times in twelve years. McEnroe showed some of his old temper but not his old tennis. He argued line calls but hit too few lines, and was dumped in the first round by Derrick Rostagno, a long-haired Californian ranked 129th in the world, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4. A semifinalist here a year ago and seeded fourth this time, McEnroe showed his age. Rostagno won the first three games of the match and, even though McEnroe came back to tie the set 5:5, the 31-year-old never mounted a serious challenge. A year ago, McEnroe came back from two sets down to beat Darren Cahill in the first round. That was the first time he had done that in his long, flashpaper career, but the feat was not to be duplicated this hazy day on Centre Court. Other seeds lost, too. Among upset victims were sixth-seeded Tim Mayotte and 12th-seeded Pete Sampras of the United States; fifth-seeded Andres Gomez of Ecuador, the French Open champion; and 14th-seeded Petr Korda of Czechoslovakia. Mayotte, a quarterfinalist last year, was a first-round loser today to Gary Muller of South Africa, 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-5, 6-3. Sampras, an up-and-comer who won a Wimbledon warm-up tournament last weekend (Manchester), was eliminated 7-6(4), 7-5, 7-6(3) by Christo van Rensburg of South Africa, and Korda was ousted by Gilad Bloom of Israel 6-0, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. “Don’t trust the seeding anymore,” Gomez said with a laugh after losing to American Jim Grabb, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. The men’s third seed, former champion Stefan Edberg, bounced back from early trouble to beat Brod Dyke 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1. Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker survived surprisingly tough challenges. Lendl, the top seed, lost four of the opening five games against 22-year-old Christian Miniussi, ranked 116th in the world. Though he recovered to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, he seemed to struggle at times with the low bounce of the ball off the carefully manicured grass courts. While Lendl was battling the bounces, Becker was simply trying to stay on his feet. The three-time winner repeatedly slipped and skidded on the grass, often while charging the net. ”It was very, very wet and soft,” Becker said after his 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 7-5 Centre Court victory over Luis Herrera. In the 1st set, Becker double-faulted away the 9th game to bring Herrera within 5:4. Soon after, three more double-faults handed Herrera a service break and a 6:5 lead. Herrera actually had a set point in the next game, but Becker responded with three gorgeous backhand winners to force a tiebreaker, which he won easily. The 2nd set was equally laborious, finally resulting in a tiebreaker win. Becker stated: “The first round is always difficult, but on such a court it is more difficult.” Around the tennis tour, players commonly refer to it as “”breaking through.” It means beating players that are ranked ahead of you. And it’s something Dade City’s Jim Courier has been struggling to do. At Wimbledon, which began Monday, the ninth-seeded Courier hopes to go beyond the expected. He got off on the right foot, disposing of Mark Kaplan 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 in a first-round match. “I’m hitting the ball fine and I’m winning a lot of matches, but not the ones I should,” said Courier, who spent several days practicing on the grass courts at the Sheraton Palm Coast resort last week. “It’s those third and fourth round ones that I need to win to get me through.” After a year marred by injury, Australia’s Pat Cash is grateful to be playing tennis on any court. But the 1987 Wimbledon champion is especially delighted to be competing again on his favorite surface, at his favorite event. “It’s just good to be back at Wimbledon,” said Cash, No. 142 in the world. “It’s a place I’ve done well at and I feel it’s very close to my heart.” Cash, who needed a wild card to get into the event, nearly was knocked out early by a young pro from Tbilisi, Georgia, Soviet Union. Cash rallied Monday to beat Dimitri Poliakov 4-6, 7-6(1), 5-7, 6-4, 6-1. Cash blamed the slow start on a slightly pulled groin muscle suffered in the first set. “I found it very hard running for a couple sets,” Cash said, “and it wasn’t until it loosened up that I found myself being able to run properly and return serve and get to the net.” After receiving treatment, Cash expects to be ready for his next match – “The report is, it should be fine in a couple of days. When you’ve been out for a year, things gradually come back together.” Wayne Ferreira , who’ll make a record of 55 consecutive Grand Slam appearances, debuted stunning 16th seeded Yannick Noah in the first round 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Ferreira won’t play US Open ’90 and something what turns into the record, will be initiated at the Australian Open ’91.
Second round: Mike Davis
Ivan Lendl chewed up Jakob Hlasek 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in 78 minutes of near-perfect tennis to win a Wimbledon second-round match in Wimbledon, England, on Thursday. Lendl opened with an ace and closed with another ace and two service winners. In between, Lendl attacked the net as never before at Wimbledon, rapping volley winners forehand and backhand, left and right, against a dazzled Hlasek. “He made me look bad because he played so good,” said Hlasek. “He has really improved on grass. The whole game – the volley, the serve, the confidence. Everything.” “The first rounds in this tournament are very difficult because the grass hasn’t been played for over a year,” Boris Becker said. “The difference between a good player and a less good player is getting closer. If you’re not 100 percent fit you lose.” Becker seemed in danger of joining the upset list on Wednesday defeating Wally Masur 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 . Masur is one of those Aussie snakes-in-the-grass whose specialty is taking down big names on this surface. He beat Becker in the 1987 Australian Open (then on grass) and surprised McEnroe in the second round here in ’88. And he’s a markedly better player than Peter Doohan, the Aussie who shocked Becker in the second round here three years ago. So when Becker dropped the first-set tiebreaker yesterday, a red flag went up. False alarm. Becker quickly unraveled Masur’s fast-closing net-rush attack with a series of precise returns, broke the Australian’s serve five consecutive times and allowed him only seven games the rest of the way. Elsewhere in the men’s draw, several non-seeds considered most dangerous to break through to the second week moved through unscathed. Derrick Rostagno, playing without a day off, handled Britain’s top seed, Jeremy Bates, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. Goran Ivanisevic, the big-serving 18-year-old Yugoslav who beat Becker in the first round of the French Open, survived a five-setter against Frenchman Olivier Delaitre 6-2, 6-0, 4-6, 6-7(5), 6-3. “I was on a high after beating McEnroe,” said Rostagno, “and I felt myself slipping a little in the second set. I tried to fight it off and get excited again – and I did.” Pat Cash, the 1987 champion, look sharp in sweeping fellow Australian, Johan Anderson 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(8). And David Wheaton, a 21-year-old Minnesotan, outlasted fellow American Paul Annacone 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4 in a match that ended in controversy. A linesman’s “out” call on a Wheaton serve was overruled by the chair umpire, awarding Wheaton an ace that took him to match point, which he converted. It was the first overrule in a match punctuated by disputed line calls. “The ball is going 130 miles an hour,” Annacone said. “If it wasn’t wide, it was close enough that I don’t think he can definitely overrule.” The only casualties were the No. 15 seeds – Henri Leconte, beaten 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-3 by Alex Antonitsch of Austria. Stefan Edberg took just 1:20 to slice ‘n’ dice Miloslav Mecir, his tormentor in the 1988 semifinals, when the Swede had to come from two sets down to win. The scores were 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. Michael Chang gave further evidence Thursday at Wimbledon that he has rediscovered his form. Seeded 13th, he had an easy time against fellow American Jim Pugh, winning 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. This constituted the latest step in a comeback that as recently as last month appeared to have run aground. A year ago, the teenager was the talk of the tennis world after becoming, at age 17 and 3 months, the youngest player ever to win the French Open. Then he surprised many observers by reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon before losing to Tim Mayotte. A year later, Chang again is making some noise here, only this time no one is noticing. “After my first match,” he said, “I was waiting for someone to come and get me for the press, and no one came. This is different.”
Third round: Mike Davis
The first week of the 1990 All-England Lawn Tennis Championships ended Saturday as Stefan Edberg, the No. 3 seed fell behind, then rallied for a dramatic 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-2, 9-7 third-round victory against Amos Mansdorf of Israel. The 5th set was a stalemate that included eight games won at love. Mansdorf five times held with shutout games, the last coming for a 7:6 lead. However, he was just once two points away from breaking Edberg’s serve, at 4:3 (deuce) – Edberg led 40/0 in that 8th game. At that juncture, he had lost just three points on his serve in the set. But by then, it was a matter of nerve, and Edberg, winner of four Grand Slam titles, showed more of it. “The top guy is going to play better on the big points,” Mansdorf said. “That’s the thing. And deep inside, you know it, in the back of your mind. Thats the difference, the slight mental difference. You know he’s not going to give you the match.” Edberg held with an ace to even it at 7-all, then got the opening for which he was so carefully biding his time, unreeling the crucial winners. Mansdorf led 30/0 in the 15th game, but Edberg hit two passing shots to even the game. Mansdorf hit an ace for 40/30, then double-faulted – his eighth of the match – for deuce. Mansdorf hit a volley for an ad, but Edberg erased it with a backhand passing shot. Edberg blasted a forehand passing shot that Mansdorf couldn’t volley for break point. Mansdorf surrendered with a forehand volley into the net. Edberg held serve at love to end it after 3 hours, 3 minutes. “He really only gave me one chance, and I was lucky to take it. A match like this will help me,” said Edberg, now fully recovered from a stomach muscle tear that forced him to retire during the Australian Open final against Lendl in January. “When you go to a fifth set at Wimbledon, it brings the best out of you.” Michael Chang, master of the comeback, did it again Saturday. The No. 13 seed rallied from two sets down to beat Australian Mark Kratzmann 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 and set up a round-of-16 encounter with Edberg on Monday – their first meeting since the 1989 French Open final, which Chang won to become the youngest champion (age 17) in that tournament’s history. The turning point of the Chang-Kratzmann match came when Kratzmann could not hold a 30/0 lead as he served at 4:5 in the 3rd set. Chang unleashed two lunging winners that swung the momentum of the match, a scathing forehand return down the line for set point and another huge forehand cross to take it. Kratzmann slipped to 1-7 in five-setters after that loss, finished his career with one of the worst Open era records: 1-9. “There’s no pressure on me,” Chang said about upcoming match with Edberg. “I have nothing to lose, and he has everything to lose because he’s supposed to win. I like that.” No.1 seed Ivan Lendl lost a second-set tiebreaker (after winning one in the first set) and had his third-round match against Bryan Shelton suspended by darkness. After the resumption Lendl took with relative ease two sets and the match 7-6(2), 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4. “It’s hard to say what would have happened,” Shelton said referring to the suspention. “But I felt good after the second set and I felt like he was really, really flustered out there. The conditions were tough, and it was just really tough to play out there.” Elsewhere on a cool, windy afternoon at the All-England Club, Guy Forget  of France needed five sets to beat West Germany’s 21-year-old Michael Stich 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. Stich, for whom the third round at Wimbledon was his best Grand Slam result at the time, will be a champion in the following year! Despite the miserable conditions, only one seeded player was upset. No. 9 Jim Courier had not dropped a set in two rounds, but he was eliminated by Mark Woodforde 7-5, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4. Men’s second seed Boris Becker defeated an unexpected quarterfinalist a year before, American Dan Goldie 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. The day’s biggest upset was turned in by a muscular young American, David Wheaton. He rallied from two sets down to beat 10th-seeded Jonas Svensson of Sweden 2-6, 6-7(8), 6-1, 6-0, 6-4. A year before Wheaton lost to Svensson at Wimbledon in three tie-breaks. Becker, trying for his fourth Wimbledon title, showed a strong serve and service-return against Goldie. He broke in the final games to wrap up the first and second sets, handed Goldie the break on a double fault in the 3rd game of the 3rd set, then completed the match by breaking the American a final time in the 12th game on a service-return winner and a forehand passing shot down the line. Brad Gilbert, the highest-ranking American left in the men’s draw, defeated Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. Derrick Rostagno lost to Goran Ivanisevic of Yugoslavia 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. Pat Cash, the 1987 champion who has been up and down the rankings since, also reached the fourth round with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Juan Aguilera of Spain.
Fourth round: Stephen Wilson
What a difference a year and a surface can make. Last year on the red clay of Roland Garros, Michael Chang gutted out a marathon five-set victory over Stefan Edberg to win the French Open. But Edberg was back in his element Monday and Chang was on unfriendly grounds. This was the grass of Centre Court at Wimbledon, where Edberg won the title in 1988 and Chang had never made it past the fourth round. The result was an overwhelming 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 win for the third-seeded Swede in their first meeting since Chang’s victory in Paris. The serve-and-volley demolition took just 90 minutes. Only two games in the match went to deuce. “Today he was just too good for me,” Chang said. “The clay surface favors me a little bit, but here the grass favors him.” The other main equalizer was the serve. Chang was broken nine times in 12 service games. Edberg constantly jumped on the American’s second serve and moved to the net behind his returns. Boris Becker bested Pat Cash in a tense tiebreaker, then rolled to a 7-6(3), 6-1, 6-4 victory. Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon winner, had two set points against Becker, but the three-time champion held on, then won the final four points of the tiebreaker. ”When two players like us come together, we both know that the first set is important,” Becker said. ”After I won the first set, it kind of clicked, and it was much easier for me and even more difficult for him.” Cash said on wasting set points: ”It would have been a lot different if one of those two backhands had gone in. It would have changed it around a lot. It was a very tight first set when you’re playing a big match. I haven’t played a big match like that for years.” Brad Gilbert and David Wheaton played an entirely different type of match. Gilbert came from behind and won, 6-7(8), 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 13-11, in 4 hours 10 minutes, although it seemed longer. There were 43 aces in the match, 24 by Wheaton, who doesn’t think much of Gilbert’s chances against Becker. Wheaton was pretty abrupt about it. Question: Does Gilbert have a chance against Becker? Answer: No. He offered more: “I don’t think Gilbert serves well enough, I don’t think he volleys well enough. If Becker serves well, I don’t think he has any chance at all.” Actually, Gilbert has beaten Becker four times in his career and believes his fortunes at big tournaments are about to change. “I’m overdue to get some decent luck in a major,” said Gilbert, who had been knocked out in the first round of the two previous Grand Slam tournaments he had entered. Gilbert, who saved two match points in the fifth set, rescued his reputation from Wheaton. “That’s probably why he’s 21 years old and ranked 29 spots behind me,” Gilbert said. Wheaton lost also a couple of weeks earlier at Roland Garros losing match points (4) – to Milan Srejber. One big hitter beginning to draw attention is Goran Ivanisevic, the 18-year-old Yugoslav, who will play Kevin Curren in the quarterfinals. Ivanisevic defeated Mark Koevermans 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(2) and then said he gained new confidence in beating the Dutch clay-court specialist. “I think I play unbelievable,” Ivanisevic said. “(Koevermans) won three matches here, which I think is unbelievable for him. The first set we play is unbelievable. And then I won. But I think, no, I don’t have any pressure, you know, if I play unbelievable again.” An unsmiling Ivan Lendl, whose form on grass at this Wimbledon has not yet been on par with the excellence he displayed two weeks ago at Queen’s Club, today defeated Alex Antonitsch of Austria, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 (Lendl won his opening match after exactly the same scoreline). Cursed by Becker? ”You don’t get points for smiling,” said Lendl, who may be starting to worry that Becker’s pronouncement after being beaten by Lendl in the Queen’s Club final could be on target. Becker, angry with himself for falling in straight sets there, declared that Lendl couldn’t possibly raise the caliber of his game any higher and implied that he, a three-time Wimbledon champion, probably would. Brad Pearce, a circuit journeyman with a ranking of No. 120, is assigned with Lendl is just his third quarterfinal as a professional and his first at a Grand Slam event. Today, he beat Mark Woodforde  of Australia in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, and agreed that his progress here would qualify him as ”the pride of Provo, Utah.” Just by advancing to the quarterfinals, the 24-year-old Pearce has earned $50,830 for his week’s work here, slightly more than he earned in all of 1989. Pearce, the lowest-ranked player remaining in the draw, said he is well aware of, yet unintimidated by, Lendl’s carefully plotted path toward a title here. ”Wimbledon is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid, but I still have a couple of rounds to go before I fulfill that dream,” said Pearce, who took advantage of his opponent’s nervousness to storm back from a *1:4 1st set deficit and then held his serve for the rest of the match. Pearce, like his countryman Paul Chamberlin a year before, had an amazing luck facing three lower ranked opponents en route to the quarterfinals. Besides Wimbledon ’90, he won only one other Grand Slam match, finishing career in 1999 with a 41-79 record overall. Thanks to Wimbledon ’90 he advanced for a short period of time to the Top 100, he had been there for a momentarily episode in 1986. Besides Pearce, also Christian Bergstrom  advanced to his first major quarterfinal stunning Guy Forget 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. The 22-year-old Swede at the time is an interesting case, it was his first out of three Grand Slam quarterfinals, but he never won an ATP title, participating in just two small finals.
Quarterfinals: Diane Pucin
Boris Becker said he felt as if he were playing in the second round at Queens, Stefan Edberg had to remind himself he was in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, and Ivan Lendl asked for play to be postponed. Goran Ivanisevic? He knew exactly where he was and what he wanted to get done. And he did. After nearly a four-hour rain delay at Wimbledon yesterday, the four men’s quarterfinals were played simultaneously. That meant defending champion and No. 2 seed Becker found himself out on Court Two and No. 3 seed Edberg on Court 14. Top seed Lendl had the prime spot on Centre Court and still wasn’t happy – until the end. Lendl beat gutty Brad Pearce 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4; Becker finished off No. 7 seed Brad Gilbert, 6-4, 6-4, 6-1, and caught the kickoff of West Germany’s World Cup victory over England; Sweden’s Edberg was clinical in his annihilation of countryman Christian Bergstrom, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4; and 18-year-old Ivanisevic served up 27 aces in knocking out Kevin Curren, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3. “I was sitting down at a changeover and I thought it was some kind of second round in Queens,” said Becker of the tuneup tournament to Wimbledon. ”Playing on a side court like that, with the conditions, then the crowd not fully there – it was a funny atmosphere.” Edberg, who needed guards to show him the way to the far reaches of the Wimbledon grounds, noted: “It wasn’t full of people out there, exactly. You sort of had to tell yourself to really get into it and concentrate hard.” Struggling to find his service rhythm and obviously running gingerly on the slippery Centre Court, Lendl called for tournament referee Alan Mills before the start of the 2nd game in the 4th set. “I felt it was extremely dangerous out there,” said Lendl, who had just lost his serve to lose the third set. “The court had gotten a bit damp, and I asked what could be done. They said we couldn’t stop it, but I don’t believe the officials knew how dangerous it was.” Also dangerous was Pearce. The 24-year-old, who was participating in only his third career quarterfinal as a pro. Listed as 5-foot-9 and probably needing to stretch to reach that height, Pearce played Lendl aggressively and fearlessly. He jumped on Lendl’s second serves, of which there were many because the world’s top player converted on only 58 percent of his first serves, constantly cracking cross-court backhands past the befuddled Lendl. “He played very well,” Lendl said. “He was returning great.” The diminutive Pearce appeared to be swallowed up by the massive Centre Court, and when Lendl broke his serve at 15 in the 1st game, the match appeared an easy one for Lendl. But Pearce, who says he wants to make a lot of money so he can support his hoped-for 10 children, settled down. He managed one service break in the first set, though it came when he already was down, 5:2. Pearce used his backhand return to his advantage in that break, and it seemed to give him confidence. The world’s 120th-ranked player jumped out to a 3:0* lead in the 2nd set and led, 4:1, before Lendl went on a five-game run to win the set. The crucial break for Lendl came in the 9th game, when Pearce double-faulted on break point. The 3rd set was tight and well-played. There wasn’t a break point until the 12th game, when Pearce hit three great backhand returns and won the set. “I was really having trouble,” Lendl conceded. “The conditions were just so terrible.” The fourth set started like the third, with each player holding serve easily. Lendl did manage a break point in the 5th game, when Pearce double-faulted, but Pearce followed with three service winners. As the set wore on, though, Lendl picked up the pace of his serve. He held in the sixth game at 15 and in the eighth game at love. And when Pearce had trouble making a first serve in the 9th game, Lendl pounced on the second serve, getting the crucial break on a cross-court backhand passing shot. The best match of the day, however, came from the two unseeded players. Curren, the 32-year-old who was born in South Africa and became a U.S. citizen five years ago, was a Wimbledon finalist in 1985, losing to then-17-year-old Becker. He came up against another hard-serving teenager yesterday. While Curren had an impressive 16 aces, that seemed anemic compared with 11 more aces from the nerveless Ivanisevic. “I was in the Wimbledon quarterfinals,” the young Yugoslav said. “I thought, ‘You are lucky boy. You play Curren instead of Becker or Lendl to make semifinals. Don’t blow it.'” He didn’t albeit wasted a match point leading 8:7 in the 4th set tie-break. Becker won so easily with the help of only one service ace. He was winning points, instead, on penetrating service returns against Gilbert, the 28-year-old.
Semifinals: Robin Finn
Ivan Lendl‘s preparation for the 1990 Wimbledon may have been epic, but today, the curtain came down on him one round too early. At the very moment he most needed it, Lendl ran out of his supply of inspired ambition, or “zazrany”, as they call it back in his discarded homeland of Czechoslovakia. In a semifinal match this afternoon, after marching through the early rounds without having to face a seeded player, Lendl, the world’s No. 1 player, squared off against Stefan Edberg, the 1988 Wimbledon champion and the 1989 runner-up, and emerged from the tournament empty-handed. Edberg, serving solidly and volleying with a degree of finesse that escaped Lendl throughout the match, dismissed the most dedicated student of Wimbledon in straight sets, 6-1, 7-6(2), 6-3, and advanced to a Sunday rematch with the defending champion, Boris Becker, who has captured this title three times and last year took it away from Edberg in straight sets in the final, out-slugged and out-bullied 18-year-old Goran Ivanisevic of Yugoslavia in the other semifinal, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-0, 7-6(5). ”Today, Stefan basically played great tennis and he outplayed me,” said Lendl, who still can’t count a Wimbledon championship among his Grand Slam titles – he has eight of them from elsewhere – despite an 11-year campaign to secure one. Becker said his recovery today after losing the first set, an occurrence he attributed to Ivanisevic’s thunderous serves, was a matter of Grand Slam principle. ”Coming back like that is what it’s all about,” said the 22-year-old West German, who admitted that Ivanisevic’s slowdown after failing to serve for the second set was fortuitous (Ivanisevic served at 6:5, 30/30 in the 2nd set when he missed a half-volley by intches, then led 3:0* in the tie-break; he was also two points away from winning the 4th set as he led 5:4* in the second tie-break). ”His arm got heavier and heavier, and I was hoping for that, actually.” Becker, who delivered 15 aces compared with 14 from his opponent, described Ivanisevic’s serve as the hardest and best he had ever encountered. He also said his assignation with Edberg in the final would be the opposite of a blind date. ”I know him blind,” Becker said, ”and he knows the same things about me. The match will be decided on whoever wakes up in the best frame of mind on Sunday.” Edberg, in defiance of the weather, evidently woke up in sunny spirits today. ”I did very few mistakes and I sort of kept the pressure on him all the time,” said Edberg, who fended off the single break point Lendl held against him (with a reflex-volley at 3:4 in the 2nd set) and converted three of the eight breaks he held against Lendl. ”Of course, there are no limits in tennis, but it was as good as it could be today. It’s a totally different day on Sunday and a different player, but if I maintain my form, I’ll be O.K.” Lendl carried a 10-match grass-court winning streak into his fifth consecutive – and eventually unsuccessful – semifinal on Center Court. He trained on the lawns of three continents with the thought of bringing himself to his 11th Wimbledon in condition to win it. Instead, he suffered his worst loss here since his first-round debut in 1979. The semifinal debut of the saucer-eyed Ivanisevic was an encouraging one. Edberg said he was reminded of Becker’s stunning race to the title as an unseeded 17-year-old in 1985. Becker labeled Ivanisevic a future Wimbledon champion (Ivanisevic had to wait another 11 years to accomplish it) and rated their match as one of the best he has played to date on grass. The self-possessed Yugoslav did not disagree. ”I played unbelievable in the first set,” said Ivanisevic (in that set he fired 5 aces and 12 service winners), who knocked Becker out of the French Open in the opening round last month, ”On tactics, I know everything; on grass, if you’re serving good and returning good, that’s it.”
Final: Robin Finn
When the match was over and it was truly time to surrender his title to the man he had claimed it from last year, Boris Becker paused for a moment and took a mental snapshot of the surroundings that have been most conducive to his urge to terrorize his competition. Then, in the unfamiliar glare of sunlight, which bathed Center Court and worked like a halo for Stefan Edberg today, Becker made the long trudge across the court and over the net to pay tribute to the victor in the Wimbledon men’s final. Moved by the moment, he put an arm around the shoulder of Edberg, who had just defeated him, 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, and gave him a comradely hug. ”I had mixed emotions,” said the 22-year-old West German, who for the past three years has been engaged in a tug-of-war with Edberg for the championship of the greatest tournament in the world. Becker, who in 1988 played the role of the also-ran when Edberg won his first title here, snatched the championship back last year in a straight-set exercise only to have it wrestled away from him again this year. It had been over a century since the same two men had dueled in a Wimbledon final for three years running. ”I know how it feels to win it and to lose it against the same guy,” said Becker, who has won three titles here. ”We’ve gone through so many matches together, and it just came over me then.” The 24-year-old Edberg, a runner-up in 1989 in the French Open and Wimbledon, had not won a major title since defeating Becker here in 1988 and hardly knew how to react in the winner’s circle today. After an instant of uncertainty, he belted a tennis ball into the stands, tossed his shirt into the crowd, and then, in a hurry to change into a clean shirt before confronting the Duke and Duchess of Kent, he put it on backward. ”After what happened in the French Open, losing early, you know, this feels really, really good,” said the Swede, who like Becker was knocked out of the French Open in the first round, squandering a perfect opportunity to move into the No. 1 spot in the world ahead of Ivan Lendl, who skipped Paris to concentrate on his grass game. ‘‘We really are the two challengers to Lendl’s No. 1 spot; I know this No. 1 spot is within reach now,” Edberg said. But Edberg nearly watched today’s match slip away when Becker recovered from a two-set deficit and went ahead a service break for a *3:1 (30-all) lead in the final set. Had Becker been able to maintain his edge, he would have become the first player to recover from so steep a disadvantage in a Wimbledon final since Henri Cochet defeated Jean Borotra in 1927. ”I needed to lift myself in the fifth set to win that match,” said Edberg, who was unusually liberal with his gesticulations after key points. ”I think it’s important sometimes to get fired up, and maybe that’s why I won today.” Becker and Edberg did not exactly synchronize their efforts in the 2-hour-58-minute match. In the first two sets, Edberg played so flawlessly that Becker, who normally exerts an authoritarian presence on Center Court, was rendered nearly invisible. Edberg volleyed with iron wrists, able to deflect the harshest of Becker’s passing shots back onto the West German’s side of the net for winners and pillaged Becker’s serve with scathing backhand returns aimed into his feet. Becker, in contrast, had an easier time using his racquet to speed-dribble the ball than to connect his volleys with anything besides the net. He dropped his serve in the 3rd and 5th games of both sets, and began watching Edberg’s improbable backhand lobs like a spectator. But after looking like nothing so much as a handy assistant as Edberg performed his captivating demonstration of the proper serve-volley technique in the initial two sets, Becker gave a demonstration of athletic reincarnation in the next two. As soon as Edberg failed to convert a break point in the 1st game of the 3rd set, Becker, who likes to think of himself as a Panzer of a player, rumbled into action. He earned his first break point of the match in the 2nd game of that set and converted his second by ripping a backhand service return across the court. He then put the boom back into his serve and never allowed Edberg back into the set. The Swede recovered from 0/40 to hold serve in the 1st game of the 4th set, faltered after earning another break point in the 2nd game, and was broken himself after double-faulting to 30/40 and nudging an overanxious backhand volley wide at breake point. Becker continued to pour on the pressure and used two service return winners to break Edberg for the fourth set and even the match. “If you let it slip a little bit, he is going to get back into the match,” said Edberg, who survived a similar roller-coaster meeting with Becker in the semifinals of the 1989 French Open. Until today, that match was the only five-setter Becker had lost after recovering from a two-set deficit; on three occasions, his comeback had been complete. Edberg said he reminded himself that he needed to step up his intensity for the 5th set, but he started it shakily: he double-faulted twice in the 2nd game before rescuing himself with a service winner, and in the 4th game, he double-faulted twice again (he committed 7 double faults in total), also at break point to stake Becker to a 3:1 lead. Furious with himself, Edberg broke back in the 5th game, involuntarily helped along when Becker overplayed a simple forehand volley at break point ”Stefan was so much on top of Becker in this match and then all of a sudden there’s Boris on top in the fifth,” said Edberg’s coach, Tony Pickard, a former captain of Britain’s Davis Cup team. ”He had him 3:1; let’s face it, he was gone. People think he’s got no fire; I’m telling you he has. If anybody thinks the way Edberg plays is boring, I feel sorry for them.” Edberg regained control of the set by spinning out a parade of uninhibited returns to break Becker in the 9th game at 15: two blazing backhands put Becker in trouble at 0/30, a brilliant backhand service-return winner handcuffed Becker to set up double break point, and all Becker could do was raise his eyebrows to the hazy backhand lob that gave Edberg the game and the chance to serve for the match. The Swede converted his second match point with a service winner holding at 30. ”I thought it was the kind of final you don’t see too often,” Becker said. Edberg’s 24th title (fourth major), during Wimbledon ’90 he began his career-best match winning streak that extended to 21 victories, in the meantime he replaced Lendl at the top of the men’s game. Becker will have to wait to the Australian Open ’91 to become the best player in the world. Stats of the final
Lendl vs. Pearce
Edberg’s road to the title
Edberg vs. Becker (Italian)
Lendl vs. Washington (last 3 games)
Agassi vs. Krajicek
Agassi vs. Eltingh (last 3 games)
Wheaton vs. Agassi
Stich vs. Becker
Edberg vs. J.McEnroe
Serve speed 1991:
1. Rosset – 134 mph
2. Stolle – 123 mph
3. Evernden – 121 mph
4. Wheaton – 120 mph