Smash hit Becker gains Wimbledon title; Navratilova retains hers
The tumult and the shouting dies, the captains and the kings depart, and nothing in the world of Grand Prix tennis can be quite the same again. Young Boris Becker's victory in this quite incredible Wimbledon tournament spreads tidal waves rather than ripples round the globe of sport. Queries about Wimbledon's future, growing so loud recently, have been drowned out. The coming United States Open Championship has been raised to a new peak of wonder and expectancy.
Sporting horizons in West Germany have suddenly widened. (Don't forget Bernhard Langer is the Masters golf champion too.)
If one calls this Wimbledon ``incredible,'' a mere recital of some of the facts will prove it.
Becker became at 171/2 the youngest player ever to win the men's title. He also is the only unseeded player ever to do so and the only German.
A king was dethroned; the captains were dismissed. Top-seeded defending champion John McEnroe went down to Becker's powerful opponent, Kevin Curren, born in South Africa, now American. So did third-seeded Jimmy Connors, while second-seeded Ivan Lendl bowed to unseeded Frenchman Henri Leconte.
Sweden's pretender, Mats Wilander, was eliminated in the first round.
In the women's section Martina Navratilova won her sixth singles title and fourth in a row, triumphing once again over her great rival, Chris Evert Lloyd, who was eyeing a Grand Slam of her own after previously winning in both Australia and in France.
Navratilova and Paul McNamee played 117 games to win the mix doubles championship, the last set in the semifinal going to a record 23-21 score. But Martina's quest for a seventh women's doubles title failed when she and Pam Shriver, who had won 109 consecutive matches including last year's Grand Slam, were beaten in the final by Kathy Jordan and Elizabeth Smylie.
The whole tournament had quite literally started with a bang. Right on time a thunderous flash of lightning struck the new extension to the center court, knocking a chunk of masonry off the corner. For four days, play was repeatedly interrupted by heavy showers.
The women's final, of course, turned out to be the one everybody had expected all along -- and once again Navratilova and Evert Lloyd put on an outstanding display of their skills. Chris, cool, elegant, commanding, won the first set 6-4 from the baseline. Martina clawed her way back, and although she won the second set 6-3, the match was much more even than the score suggests. It was power-versus-control tennis of the highest class. Eventually power won, Navratilova taking the final set 6-2. She thus equalled the six victories of Billie Jean King and Suzanne Lenglen.
Her chances of adding to this victory total, and perhaps even overtaking Helen Wills Moody, who secured eight Wimbledon titles between 1927 and 1938, appear good. She is not only is a superior talent, but one seemingly determined to keep on winning.
McEnroe's appetite for titles, on the other hand, may be more uncertain given his listless semifinal loss.
Curren's demolition of the defending champion, coming less than 48 hours after a similar straight-set win over Connors, made him appear the probable winner as he rushed on to the final with all the experts on his side.
Former champion Arthur Ashe said young Becker couldn't win. Anders Jarryd, whom he had just beaten, said he couldn't win. Leconte said he couldn't win, Joakim Nystrom too. But he won 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4.
The West German schoolboy's victory is all the more remarkable, too, when one sees it in perspective.
Last year at Wimbledon he was carried off the court on a stretcher after sustaining an injury, and some thought he might not play again.
Even while advancing at Wimbledon, he had been forced to scramble his way to the final in a series of perilously close matches against much lesser opposition than Curren had played. Now in the final he was to face an experienced campaigner at the top of his form who had already blasted two champions out of the tournament.
It was a match of 40 aces, shared almost equally between the players. Their speed was electrifying, their returns brilliant. Both men skidded and fell heavily going for wide balls, picked themselves up, and powered on.
It was a very intense match with some inevitable cries and scowls, yet it was played in a fine spirit.
Could this mark the beginning of the Becker era? Curren, mind you, thinks Boris still has a long way to go to climb to No. 1. He is a very big young man and his speed may be the sheer speed of youth. We will see.