It was impossible not to be touched by the jubilation of the youngest Wimbledon champion. Boris Becker kissed the golden trophy, stood it on his head and caressed it as if he meant to hang on to it for years. Perhaps the 17-year-old from Leimen will prove the true successor to Bjorn Borg, holder of five consecutive titles.
The handful of German spectators stood proudly as the red, black and yellow of their national flag flew over the Centre Court to mark the first West German triumph in the men’s singles.
Becker is an original – an astonishing talent with iron in his heart, bounding energy and explosive power in his racket. He even displayed his soccer skills under the Royal Box, controlling a tennis ball with a chest, thigh and foot in a juggle that would have done credit to Franz Beckenbauer.
As the hours rolled by the strawberry-blond teenager faced a searching test of his stamina and concentration. Yet, instead of losing focus. Becker fired his bullets faster and with a more deadly aim. Curren could only hang on bravely like a man whose fingers were being slowly prised away from the edge of a precipice.
The press broke into spontaneous applause when Becker entered the interview room. “It was my first Wimbledon win and I hope it will not be my last,” said Becker. “The Centre Court was a mixture of the French Open and Wimbledon – clay in the middle and grass on the outside.” When told he had won £130,000 prize money Becker said: “That is a lot.” He added: “Perhaps my victory will change the position of tennis in Germany because we have never before had an idol in this sport.”
Becker is a child of his time in the sense that he is not above a bit of gamesmanship or argy-bargy with the umpire, such is his will to win. Like a kid testing out an old pro in a boxing booth, the German brushed Curren during a tiebreak changeover and later he deliberately stalled for so long on a set point that Curren became visibly angry.
However, it was the likeable South African-born player who earned a warning for time violation for slow play at the start of the fourth set. Curren, whose hobby is taking wildlife pictures on African safari, sometimes seemed lost in contemplation of methods to outwit the powerful human tormenting him from the other end of the court.
“Boris has good placement on his serve, a good second serve and he hits winners from any part of the court,” said Curren. “But he is not nearly as good as McEnroe on the low volley. I still think McEnroe is the better player and I feel thrilled to have beaten Connors, McEnroe and Edberg on my way to the final.”
In some ways Becker represents a regression to the sixties when the men’s event was an interminable series of serve-and-volley flows between Yanks and Aussies, with the latter taking most of the prizes. For such a tall, hefty person Becker moves smoothly but not half as well as players like Henri Leconte and Curren, though that proved no hindrance against them.
The advice of his coach, Ion Tiriac, has been invaluable. Before the final Becker spent some time practising with his Czech friend Pavel Slozil, who delivered heavy serves from a yard inside the baseline to give him the feel of the Curren armoury.
Because Becker was still asking his coach for pocket money until a short time ago, the media have tried to play up the notion that he is an innocent at large. Nothing could be further from the truth, as he often demonstrates by deflecting tricky questions with a politician’s ease.
The other day someone asked Becker why he wore a watch during matches. “Because I have a contract with the watchmaker,” came the reply. “What other contracts do you have, Boris?” persisted the newshound. “You had better ask my manager,” said Becker firmly. Predictably the young German is a little more explicit when using his native tongue, but evidence of an old head on young shoulders is abundant. Becker several times gave Curren a “psyche-out” stare when he struck a winner or an ace, and winning games were often accompanied by an arrogant jig of victory.
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