ATP HERITAGE PROGRAMME
ATP Heritage: Becker's "Moon Landing"
Becker At Wimbledon
by James Buddell|
Three weeks before The Championships in 1985, Boris Becker could be found playing endless games of chess with his coach Gunther Bosch in a quiet corner of the players' marquee at the only British tournament to be run by amateurs.
Ion Tiriac, his manager, had urged his protégé to compete at Beckenham Cricket Club, which staged a grass-court tournament from 1886 to 1996. That week, when he was very nearly beaten by World No. 441 Leighton Alfred in the first round, the German was able to wander freely around the courts – cut on the cricket outfield – largely undisturbed by fans. Requests for autographs were minimal.
"Having lost early in Paris, I came to Beckenham for a confidence-boost and grass-court practice," Becker told ATPWorldTour.com at Wimbledon. "I fondly remember Beckenham as it gave me a head start before the next tournament at The Queen's Club.”
Becker, who lost to Tim Mayotte in the Beckenham quarter-finals, went on to win the Aegon Championships title and started his second campaign, at the All England Club, unseeded at No. 20 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
"I got a lot of luck on the way to the final," admitted Becker. "I beat Joakim Nystrom 9-7 in the fifth set, in the third round, and then sustained an ankle injury against Mayotte in the fourth round. I thought I would have to withdraw, but I clung on to win in five sets."
With each victory, with each mid-air volley and powerful unreturned serve, Becker-mania grew. Just as it had done for Bjorn Borg, the five-time former Wimbledon champion, on the Swede's first appearance in 1973. Read About Borg at The Championships
This year, the ATP pays special tribute to Becker, Borg and the 23 other former World No. 1s as part of the ATP Heritage programme, marking 40 years since the ranking system was introduced in 1973.
Becker and Bosch returned to Beckenham to practise between matches. Outside the goldfish bowl of publicity at Wimbledon, Becker was able to fine tune his technique, watched by a handful of members, en route to the final for the sport's most prestigious prize.
On 7 July 1985, Becker experienced his own "moon landing". He proved to be too quick and too strong for Kevin Curren, who had beaten former World No. 1s Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, in a 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 6-4 victory in three hours and 18 minutes on Centre Court, the cathedral of tennis.
"I only experienced nerves at 5-4 in the fourth set, when I was shaking and sweating as I sat in my chair prior to serving," recalls Becker. "I could barely toss the ball up and hit two double faults, including one at 40/15. When I won, it was all a blur. It was only later that I realised what I had achieved."
At 17 years, 227 days, Becker had become the youngest champion at a major championship – since bettered by Michael Chang at 1989 Roland Garros; the first titlist to hail from Germany and the first unseeded player to win. In losing eight sets on his way to the title, it equalled the record of Ted Schroeder in 1949. Incredibly, Becker was younger than the Wimbledon junior champion that year, Leonardo Lavalle.
Having returned to Monaco for a meeting with Tiriac, Becker then flew to his hometown, Leimen, for a four-kilometre motorcade ride to the city hall. "There were around 15,000 people to greet me,” said Becker, who then attended a private party at Blau-Weiss Tennisklub in the evening. "My parents [Karl-Heinz and Elvira) had wanted me to go to school to study to become a lawyer or a doctor. They had been reluctant for me to play tennis."
Becker would retain the Wimbledon title in 1986 with victory over Ivan Lendl and he beat Stefan Edberg for his third crown in 1989. He was runner-up on four other occasions (1988, 1990, 1991, 1995) and played at The Championships for the 15th and final time in 1999, when he lost in the fourth round to Patrick Rafter. He won 71 of his 83 singles matches at the All England Club.
Becker rose to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 28 January 1991, initially for three weeks. He subsequently spent nine weeks at the pinnacle of the sport from 8 July to 8 September 1991.
Watch Becker Win Wimbledon In 1986