Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Becker, Graf Win at Wimbledon - Sweep For West Germany
THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Monday, July 10, 1989
Bruce Jenkins, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wimbledon, England When they were little kids, swatting tennis balls on the courts outside Heidelberg, West Germany, Boris Becker and Steffi Graf were reluctant equals.
"I was about 9, and the worst of the boys," Becker recalled. "She was 7, and the best of the girls. So I had to hit with her."
Although they lived just 15 miles apart, it was not a terribly close relationship. As the years passed, they saw little of each other beyond the tournaments. But on Centre Court of the fabled All England Club yesterday, they came together in a most special way.
Each won the Wimbledon championship.
Graf won her second consecutive title, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 over Martina Navratilova in the women's final, held over from a rainy Saturday, and Becker drilled Stefan Edberg, 6-0, 7-6, 6-4, for his third championship in five years. The skies were dark and foreboding throughout, but not a drop fell until Becker's trophy presentation. By then, not a soul was complaining.
It was rare enough that both finals were contested on the same day. That had occurred only twice in Wimbledon history. For the country of West Germany, the double-decker title was an epic event.
"It's so brand-new and so impossible to think of," said Becker, "the people in my country may not grasp it until we're not playing any more. Only when Steffi and I are grandmother and grandfather, I think, will people realize what we have achieved."
Becker's homeland has known many great sporting moments since World War II, but mostly on the East German side. Among the 20-odd West German journalists here, the consensus opinion ranked yesterday with the World Cup soccer victories in 1954 (in Switzerland) and 1974 (in Munich).
"I keep thinking back to many years ago, when Boris was an incredibly clumsy kid, and Steffi was as skinny as a gymnast," said Conny Konzack, a Munich magazine editor who has covered tennis for 19 years. "It is really quite amazing."
Becker is the only German man to win Wimbledon, Graf just the second woman (Cilly Aussem, 1931). Last night, the two of them danced together at the Champions Dinner, undoubtedly thinking about old times.
"We know each other and respect each other," said Steffi. "We've practiced next to each other this week, even had a couple of dinners. We've probably been closer than ever before."
Certainly closer than either of their opponents got to victory yesterday. One can only imagine how the British tabloids will treat this uncommon barrage of German tennis power. It certainly won't be pretty.
Graf said she felt so confident against Navratilova, she almost lost her composure. "I had such a good feeling when I broke serve (for 3-1) in the third set. I really had to tell myself, "Come on, concentrate,' and not start laughing."
Becker's 6-0 first set was sort of a chuckle, too. It's incredible that a man can hit the ball as hard as Becker, with such complete abandon, and still keep it in the court. Although it was Edberg, the defending champion, on the other side, the script was already being written.
"You never want to give Boris that kind of confidence," said Edberg. "He plays so well when he's in charge."
Edberg had only one real chance to recover. After breaking serve for a 6-5 lead in the second set, he had a 40-0 edge - three set points - on his serve. But Becker hit a hooking, forehand passing shot down the line, and on the next four points, Edberg netted his highly respected backhand volley.
"I can count on one hand the times I've handled a situation like that," Edberg said. "Five bad points in a row. Why? I don't know. That's what makes it so interesting." It was especially interesting for Becker, who stormed through the tie-breaker, 7-1.
By the start of the third set, Edberg was completely out of sorts. He complained about the "soft" balls, saying they were "different than any other day." But that wasn't such a puzzle; this was the first real cold-weather day of the tournament.
"I can't blame the balls," Edberg said later, with a smile. "Probably, it was me."
When Edberg fell behind 0-40 on his serve at 4-all of the third set, he tried to remain confident. "I was thinking about last year, being down 0-40 to (Miloslav) Mecir at 3-all and two sets down," he said. "I came back from that one. That gives you toughness."
Sure enough, Edberg fought back to deuce. But then, shockingly, he sailed a backhand volley long and double-faulted the game to Becker. With the match firmly in his grasp, Becker served it out, delivering a first-service winner to the forehand on match point.
Wimbledon has seen some distinctive celebrations over the years, from Bjorn Borg on his knees to Pat Cash in the stands. Becker had an interesting version. He held one fist firmly in the air, walked to the net to shake Edberg's hand, headed calmly toward the chair . . . and suddenly wheeled around, firing his racket 20 rows into the seats.
"It's difficult to just explode right away," he said. "Then, after a couple of seconds, you realize that you won it, and the explosion comes out. Thank God it didn't hit anybody."
"It's gone to Birmingham (England), Boris," said a British writer. "A lady from Birmingham got it."
Did he think of asking for it back?
"Oh, no. It is gone with the wind."
The ceremony - very pomp, all kinds of circumstance -featured the inevitable duke and duchess of Kent, masters of small talk. What does one say to the odd ballboy, or the frustrated loser, or even the ecstatic winner at a time like this? Somehow, the duchess always comes through, with smiles all around. Another nice part of Wimbledon.
It was only now, in a spontaneous little victory lap, that Becker erred. How many times has it happened: You've won Wimbledon, there's a drizzle in the air, you're juggling a slippery trophy, and you drop the darn thing.
No matter. When Becker was asked to sum up this day, for himself and his country, he said, "It is a fairy tale."
And thus it will always remain.
NOTES: Meredith McGrath, a Stanford-bound student from Michigan, reached the finals of the girls singles before losing to Andrea Strnadova, 6-2, 6-3. Strnadova had knocked off the highly publicized Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals . . . Rick Leach and Jim Pugh are still looking for their first Wimbledon doubles title after losing to John Fitzgerald and Anders Jarryd yesterday, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 7-6. Fitzgerald and Jarryd each completed a unique Grand Slam, having won all of the major tournaments in doubles. This was their first one together, however . . . The women's doubles was a breeze for Helena Sukova and Jana Novotna, 6-1, 6-2, over Larisa Savchenko and Natalia Zvereva.