Edbeg-Becker Wimbledon 1988

By Rex Bellamy, London Times, Tuesday July 5 1988

Edberg, aged 22, became Wimbledon champion last evening by beating Boris Becker 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-2 in a final that began on Sunday, was played in three phases, and lasted for a total of two hours and 50 minutes. This was the first Wimbledon singles final to begin one day and end the next.
Edberg is the first Swedish winner since Bjorn Borg in 1980. The title has passed from Pat Cash, an Australian with an apartment in Fulham, to a Swede with an apartment in Kensington. In January of last year Edberg beat Cash in the final of the last Australian championship played on grass.

Five years ago Edberg, having beaten Becker in the first round, won the Wimbledon boys’ title. Becker was favoured to win their long-deferred return match on the famous old lawns but, ultimately, was clearly second best to a man giving a classic demonstration of the serve-and-volley game. Edberg’s mixture of services teased Becker throughout the match.

Becker said later that his preceding matches with Cash and Ivan Lendl had taken a good deal out of him, physically and mentally, and that consequently he was unable to “push” himself when the quality of Edberg’s tennis demanded it. Edberg led 3-2 in the first set overnight but Becker, having won five consecutive games, went to 5-3 and quickly tucked the set away. But he was soon under stress. In the second set Edberg had four break points, Becker one. In the tie-break Edberg instantly took the initiative and Becker, between points, sometimes reeled about like a boxer who was taking too many punches. Edberg was two men in one. Between rallies, he ambled about like a quietly watchful gunslinger. When the ball was in motion, he reacted like lightning, shot from the hip, and seldom missed his target. His serving, volleying, and return of service were exhilarating not least when he was volleying or driving on the backhand.

Always springy in the forecourt, Edberg usually gave a little hop of satisfaction after putting away a volley. There was many a fleeting hint of a private smile. Edberg sometimes punched the air, too.

Such indications of pleasure were never excessive and were always swiftly suppressed. Edberg is no man to make a fuss, or to be discourteous to his opponent by giving any sign of gloating. He was happy because he knew that he was playing his best tennis, whereas Becker was not. But Edberg was aware that it could all change, at any moment.

Edberg broke to 2-1 in the third set and in the next game Becker irritably threw down his racket in frustration and was given a warning. Becker changed his racket but in the next game he was briefly embarrassed when he slipped and sat down in the forecourt: and Edberg lobbed him. Again, Becker angrily swished his racket.

Edberg was remorseless. He clinched that third set with a run of four service games in which he conceded only three points. Becker, often shaking his head, was riddled with self-doubt. His usually formidable power game was spluttering the blazing services and returns too sporadic to give Edberg persistent cause for concern.

Yet the tension remained almost tangible, because we knew that although Edberg could play no better, Becker might. But in the first game of the fourth set Becker, serving, went 30-40 down: and a voice from the stands cried “Bye, bye, Boris”.

Becker lost that game with a double-fault and, head bowed, went to the changeover with one strong hand hiding his face. If there was any further doubt in his mind, or Edberg’s, it was dispelled when Edberg broke him again, to 4-1. In that game one of Edberg’s backhands exploded down the court like a shell. Edberg’s service games remained impregnable even in the last game, in which his six services were all second balls. Becker was a broken man. In the last rally he had Edberg at his mercy but dumped an easy backhand into the net. Edberg fell to his knees, hardly believing his luck.

But Edberg had made his own luck, because in the last three sets he never gave Becker the slightest cause for hope, the slightest chance to take a breather and get his act together. So this was not the all-German year. It was the year of Steffi and Stefan.

Graf and Navratilova, Wimbledon 88

By Peter Alfano, New York Times, July 3, 1988

As she stood at the umpire’s chair during the postmatch ceremony – trying to keep a stiff upper lip in the best British tradition – Martina Navratilova could have closed her eyes and recited all the parts by heart. This was the ninth time she had played a major role in this slice of Wimbledon pomp and circumstance, having become as much of a fixture on Centre Court as the Duke and Duchess of Kent. For the first time, however, she would leave without the championship.

That now belongs to Steffi Graf of West Germany, who at 19 is clearly alone at the top of the women’s game. Last year, she assumed the No. 1 ranking from Navratilova, and today, she took the prize that Navratilova values the most.
“This is how it should happen,” Navratilova said. “I lost to a better player on the final day. This is the end of a chapter, passing the torch if you want to call it that.”

Graf struggled at first, then overpowered Navratilova, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, to win her first Wimbledon title. She has now earned three-quarters of the Grand Slam, needing only to win the United States Open in September to complete the task. She would be the first woman to win the Slam since Margaret Court in 1970. Graf won the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June.

There was more at stake, however, than Graf’s Grand Slam ambitions. Navratilova was vying for a record ninth Wimbledon singles championship, which would have enabled her to pass Helen Wills Moody. She had also won six of those titles in succession, a record she holds alone. In past years, Navratilova stood at Centre Court, holding up the large silver plate awarded the winner, likening her collection to chinaware. She wanted to add to her service of eight, she said.

Graf will make that goal more difficult to attain, however, as she showed during this Wimbledon that she will be as difficult to beat on grass as on any other surface. This was considered Navratilova’s last domain. “Getting ready for the final has always been easy for me,” Navratilova said. “I wasn’t nervous or uptight. But Steffi was hitting winners all over the place. She gets to balls no one else can. I got blown out the last two sets. So it wasn’t that tough to accept losing. I could feel what she was feeling, have that same joy because I know what the feeling is.”

Graf tossed her racquet into the box seats, the way she did when she won the French Open for the first time in 1987. An official showed her how to hold the trophy in the traditional display to the photographers and crowd. Navratilova watched, mustering a smile, fingering the much smaller plate given the runner-up.

“Winning is such a special feeling,” Graf said. “I was confident before the match, but the first set made me very angry. I just wanted to hang in there, to show I could play much better than I was.”

Graf is noted for her topspin forehand, easily the most intimidating shot among the women. Unlike the patty-cake baseliners of the previous generation, she plays aggressively from the backcourt, overpowering other baseliners, discouraging serve-and-volleyers with buggy-whip passing shots.

She is more, though, than a one-shot player. In the past year, Graf’s serve has become formidable and she is also developing a better-than-average net game. Her backhand, which Navratilova tried to exploit, is considered her weakness, although it is better than most. Navratilova sliced her serve and ground strokes to Graf’s backhand in the first set, just as she had in last year’s final. Graf was up a break at 4-2, but the strategy began to pay off as Navratilova broke in the 10th game and again in the 12th to win the set.

“My backhand was terrible,” Graf said. “I just didn’t feel comfortable out there. I had been trying to get good angles on my returns, but in the second set I played more to her volley, letting her hit it, then getting another chance.”

When Navratilova broke in the second game of the second set to lead, 2-0, the match appeared to be over. Graf’s shoulders sagged; she looked defeated. Navratilova was all clenched fist and swagger. But Graf broke back in the third game, hitting two service-return winners on her forehand. That was to be the turning point in the match as Navratilova was unable to hold serve again. The mood changed as dramatically as the weather has these past few days.

It was like trying to stop a runaway train. Graf won nine games in a row, taking the second set, building a 3-0 lead in the final one. Navratilova did not have any answers. Graf was playing in that hurry-up no-nonsense manner of hers, and when Navratilova paused to wipe a few raindrops from her glasses, the crowd booed, thinking she was stalling. “I was so angry,” she said. “I wasn’t stalling, I was trying to see.”

Navratilova broke Graf in the fourth game, giving her a glimmer of hope, but then it rained and any momentum disappeared. “I saw her in the locker room and she was so down,” Graf said. “I thought, ‘If she’s going to play like she looks, she can’t win.’ ”

Sure enough, when play resumed after a 44-minute delay, Graf broke Navratilova again, moving around the court as if she were on springs. She held serve and then broke Navratilova to close out the match, aided by two double faults. At match point, she whipped a backhand return winner that clipped the net as it went past Navratilova.

“Steffi is a super player and a nice human being,” Navratilova said. “If she can keep winning, great. It’s possible I can win Wimbledon again, I would love to win it one more time. But you can’t be greedy. Eight ain’t so bad, you know.”

Boris Becker Wimbledon 1985

Excerpt of Boris Becker‘s autobiography The Player:

“I’m serving for the championship. five steps to the baseline. My arm is getting heavy, wobbly. I look at my feet and almost stumble. My body starts to shake violently. I feel I could lose all control. I’m standing at the same baseline from where I served to 1-0 in the first set. 5-4; the end is getting nearer. I have to find a way to get these four points home.

My opponent, Kevin Curren, piles on the pressure. 0-15. 15 all. 30-15. 40-15. I want, want, want victory. I look only at my feet, at my racket. I don’t hear a thing. I’m trying to keep control. Breathe in. Serve. Like a parachute jump. Double fault. 40-30. How on earth can I place the ball in that shrinking box over there on the other side of the net? I focus on throwing the ball and then I hit it.

The serve was almost out of this world, or at least its results were. This victory was my own personal moon landing. 1969 Apollo 11, 1985 Wimbledon 1. Back then, Neil Armstrong jumped from the ladder of the space capsule Eagle into the moondust and transmitted his historic words to the people of the world: ‘That’s one small step for man, one great leap for mankind.’ But I couldn’t muster words to meet the occasion. I could only think, Boy oh boy, this can’t be true.

The tension disappeared instantly and I felt slightly shaky. My heart was beating fast. I left crying to the others, though: my coach Günther Bosch, my father and my mother. ‘With the passion of a Friedrich Nietzsche or Ludwig van Beethoven,’ wrote Time in its next issue, ‘this unseeded boy from Leimen turned the tennis establishment of Wimbledon on its head.’

Although my Swedish colleague Bjorn Borg was only seventeen when he entered the Wimbledon arena, he didn’t win until three years later. John McEnroe started at eighteen but didn’t hold the trophy until he was twenty-two. Jimmy Connors was twenty-one; Rod Laver, one of the greatest of our time, twenty-two. I was just seventeen years and 227 days old; I couldn’t legally drive in Germany. I cut my own hair, and my mother sent me toothpaste because she was worried about my teeth. ‘Boy King,’ lauded the British newspapers. ‘King Boris the First.’ Meanwhile, King Boris was in the bath enjoying a hot soak. Back then, a physiotherapist was beyond my means.

From that day on, nothing in my life remained the same. Boris from Leimen died at Wimbledon in 1985 and a new Boris emerged, who was taken at once into public ownership.

Goodbye, freedom. Hands reaching out to you, tearing the buttons from your jacket; fingernails raking over your skin as if they wanted a piece of your flesh. A photograph, a signature – no, two, three, more . . . Love letters, begging letters, blackmail. Bodyguards on the golf course and on the terraces at Bayern Munich. Security cameras in the trees of our home, paparazzi underneath the table or in the toilets. Exclusive — see Becker peeing.

And everything I did had consequences. One word of protest would lead to a headline. An innocent kiss would appear on the front page. A defeat and Bild would cry for the nation. A victory and the black, red and gold of the German flag was everywhere. Our Boris.

The experts would write that it was my willpower and the ‘boom boom’ of my serve that got me through. But it isn’t explained away so easily. On that day of my first victory at Wimbledon, forces were involved that went beyond mere willpower. Instinct made me do the right thing in the decisive moment, even if I didn’t know I was going to do it. My heart was big, my spirit was strong, my instincts were sharp – only my flesh was sometimes weak. And no one can get out of their own skin.”

Chris Evert, Wimbledon 1976

Excerpt from Chrissie: My Own Story by Chris Evert Lloyd with Neil Amdur, 1982

I took the first set 6-3, steadier off the ground, Evonne won the second 6-4, and then opened a 2-0 lead in the third until I got back a service break and we went to 4-all. That’s when I looked up in the Friends Box and saw Billie Jean and Rosie motioning with their eyes. At first, I couldn’t figure out what they were trying to tell me; then it dawned: They wanted me to move into the net and attack Evonne’s second serve.

If Evonne held her serve now, it would leave me serving at 4-5, but if I broke I could serve for the match. “Never change a winning game,” was a tennis motto, but if I didn’t take some chances and change Evonne’s rhythm, she could serve and volley her way straight to the title.
I didn’t exactly look like Tony Roche rushing to the net in the ninth game. But my aggressiveness in chipping to Evonne’s forehand threw her off enough for her to miss several passing shots. I broke to 5-4 and needed only to hold serve for a second Wimbledon title.
On the court changeover, I should have been thinking just as aggressively. Instead, I retreated, lost my serve at love and then sat back and watched Evonne carry the momentum to a 6-5 advantage. Sitting at mid-court, I toweled off and went back to several basics: Get your first serve in, preferably to Evonne’s forehand; stay keen…

Evonne helped rebuild some of my confidence. On the first point of the twelfth game, she rushed the net with an approach shot to my backhand. If I held back anything, she would be in perfect postion for a finishing volley, so I leaned forward and drove the ball cross-court with a ferocity that bordered on recklessness. The pace of the shot stunned her because she mishandled the volley, and I held serve from 15.
At many tournaments, 6-all in the third set means a decisive tie breaker. Not Wimbledon. Evonne and I would go on under conventional scoring until one of us took two consecutive games.

Evonne had chances to hold for 7-6, but I attacked and won the point with an overhead and then broke on two errors. I had served once for the match and squandered the advantage. Here I was again. At 30-0, Evonne won the next two points, but I reached 40-30. Evonne moved in behind a forehand volley down the line. Anticipating my two-handed cross-court drive, she crowded closer to the net, leaning and waiting. Instead of the passing shot, however, I held my two-handed backhand as long as I could, and then, with the same motion as my drive, flicked a topspin lob crosscourt, over Evonne’s left shoulder. The ball landed a foot or so inside the baseline. Game, set and match.
I must have thrown my Wilson racquet fifty feet in the air…

1977 Wimbledon champion Virginia Wade

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

Sarah Virginia Wade, popularly known as Ginny, was only the third British player since Dorothy Round, in the 1930s, to win three women’s singles Grand Slam tournaments. The other two were Angela Mortimer and Ann Jones, who both won on the extremes of court surfaces, grass and clay, whereas Wade’s Grand Slam titles were all on grass. Intensely patriotic, she represented her country for an unparalleled span of years: and her crowning achievement was to win Wimbledon in 1977 when the 100th championships coincided with the 25th anniversary of Queen Elisabeth II’s accession to the throne. The Queen was present for the occasion.

Wade’s patriotism had been diverted from South Africa. Her mother was born there, of British parents, and graduated from Rhodes University before moving on to Cambridge, where Wade’s father, an Oxford graduate, was chaplain. The youngest of four children, Wade was 11 months old when the family settled in Durban, where the archdeacon’s daughter turned out to be a bundle of inexhaustible energy, became obsessed with tennis, and gradually developed a tempestuous, slam-bang playing style. She was 15 years old and one of the nation’s most promising juniors when – South Africa having become a Republic outside the Commonwealth – the Wades returned to England, in February, 1961. At first they lived at Wimbledon, where Wade went to the local grammar school and, with her sister, joined the club across the road from the All England Club. She saw her first Wimbledon that year (Angela Mortimer beat Christine Truman in the first all-British final since 1914). It was in 1961, too, that the family moved to Kent and, this time, stayed put. All one needs to add to that potted off-court history is that Wade, the daughter of a clergyman and a mathematics teacher, studied at the University of Sussex and graduated in general science and physics in June, 1966 – her examinations coinciding with the more energetic challenges of a Wightman Cup contest at Wimbledon.

That background was important. As a much travelled teenager from a scholarly, intellectual, upper middle-class environment rooted in the vicarages of two nations, Wade was a rare commodity. Thee were plenty of players around who could list one or two similar items in their curriculum vitae, but none who combined so much that was unusual. Wade was a throwback to the kind of players who had graced Wimbledon half a century earlier. Inevitably she was something of a misfit in the context of the international tennis circuit as we knew it in the 1960s and 1970s. With her slightly haughty manner, her up-market accent, and her coterie of social and cultural peers, she dod not find it easy to mix with the street-smart hoi polloi. It was as much to her credit as theirs that, while remaining a mite eccentric, she eventually became part of the family. It might have happened sooner but for her comparatively cloistered upbringing.

All that goes some way towards explaining why, in her early years on the tour, Wade lacked a winning personality. It also partly explains why she found it difficult to keep a rein on a passionate nature that often erupted into querulous and unseemly on-court tantrums. She was agressive, turbulent, volatile, highly strung. Often, she was so nervous or distraught that her stroking technique and tactical sense were adversely affected. On such occasions she could lose to inferior players: as happened, notably, when Christina Sandberg, Pat Walkden, and Ceci Martinez beat her in the Wimbledons of 1968, 1979 and 1970. It sat oddly with Wade’s social and academic development that, at times, she could be capable of ill-tempered outbursts and tactical naïvety. She could not always control the fires burning within her – but they never went out. Wade always had star quality or, as friend once put it, a ‘divine spark’. She enjoyed going on stage at players’ cabarets. She saw herself, I suspect, as part of the ‘Establishment’ class born to exert authority. And as the years went by she mellowed, achieved emotional maturity, played with smiling self-assurance, and ceased to get rattled. She learned to control her temperament, her game, and her opponents.

Even the ‘phase one’ Wade was capable of great performances: spectacular, exciting, dramatic, but eschewing the infuriating wildness that punctuated those early years. The demons within were tamed on special occasions in 1968, 1971 and 1972. Her success in the first Open tournament, at Bournemouth (her birthplace), had no moe than historic signifiance, because the women’s event was a sideshow to the men’s. But in the first US Open championships in 1968 she was devastating, beating such formidable opponents as Rosie Casals, Judy Tegart, Ann Jones and Billie Jean King without conceding a set. She was the first British player to win the US women’s title since Betty Nuthall in 1930. The cheque for $6,000 mattered far less than the consistent splendour of Wade’s tennis in winning it. In a tent by the Forest Hills clubhouse she attentively poured champagne for the small contingent of Brits. In those days, there were not many of us around. I recall the stray thought that Wade – like Fred Perry before her – had a character in harmony with the bustling aggression of New York.

1968 Virginia Wade at Tennis Championships at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, News photo

A different source of satisfaction came in the 1971 Italian championships, at that time the toughest clay-court test outside Paris. Wade liked Rome. She liked the tournament. But slow clay was not her scene. She had never mastered it: because patient, devious manoeuvring was not in her nature. That year, the field of 16 was mostly modest. But in the final Wade beat Helga Masthoff (formerly Niessen), who had once committed herself to the opinion that there was no way Wade could ever beat her on clay. Masthoff, tall and unhurried, wth more than a hint of hauteur, exuded the airs and graces of a rather supercilious grande dame. Off court, she had a droll sense of humour. On court, her iron-clad composure (plus the sharpest of tactical wits) could make the likes of Wade seem emotionally dishevelled. Beating her in Rome meant a lot to Wade. But as she poured champagne again, this time on the sunny terrace of the Foro Italico, Wade merely osbserved ‘I’ve learned how to play on this stuff’.

In 1972 Wade beat Evonne Goolagong, the French and Wimbledon champion, in the Australian final. But we had to wait more than five years for the ‘phase two’ Wade to win Wimbledon. She had been playing there since she was 16 (altogether, she contested the singles for 24 consecutive years). The semi-final pairings suggested that Sue Barker was more likely than Wade to win the title for Britain. But Betty Stove beat Barker: and Wade eventually overwhelmed Chris Evert, a result that left Evert in shock for days.
Then Wade beat Stove – whereupon the centre court became a raging sea of Union Jacks, applauding hands, echoing roars, repeated hurrahs, and the improvised paradox of ‘For she’s a jolly good fellow’. It was rather like the last night of the Proms: one of those special occasions on which the British let their hair down. Everything had coincided to make this a great day: anniversaries for Wimbledon and the Queen and, most of all, the long-deferred triumph of a player closely identified with tradition, royalty and patriotism.

Virginia Wade

Wade was 5ft 7in tall and her weight usually hovered around 9st 7lb. She was dark and lithe, springy and athletic, thoufh rather heavy-footed. Her blue eyes had icy, alarming clarity. She had a graceful yet restlessly untamed air about her. One sensed the threatening reserves of nervous and physical energy, the jungle instinct, the prefeence (on court) for action rather than cerebral indulgences. In most of this she had much in common (and was aware of it) with the big cats. It was easy to imagine Wade in the latter role, bounding on to her prey and tearing it to bits. That natural athleticism, aggression and fighting spirit was the main reason for her success. Her racket-work was not exceptional. She had a superb first service, delivered with a classically fluent action, and her volleys were boldly terminal when she took care with them. The forehand was dangerous but often wayward, the backhand more consistently damaging – she put so much ‘work’ on the approach shot that, once over the net, it became almost subterranean.

Wade was a mass of contradictory qualities, not least the fact that she seemed to be thorougly English in spite of her South African upbringing and a disposition that was probably more suited to New York (where she was to settle) than the Home Counties. She aroused conflicting emotions but nobody could feel dispassionate in the presence of so much passion. In her autobiography Wade pointed out that she had the same birthday as Arthur Ashe (two years older) and that they were the first US Open champions and both won Wimbledon at the age of 31. Add the big services, the cultural interests and the African connections, and you can begin to believe in the influence of the stars.