from Tennis Magazine (issue of December 1990)
by Bruno Cuaz
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
The feast looked magnificent. And the frustration was as high as the expectations. When everything was stopped at the sixth game, due to Boris Becker's injury. Frustration for the German, who would have become the new world number one, in case of victory; frustration for Edberg himself, whose quality of tennis in Bercy might well earn him a "regular" victory; frustration, finally, for the 15,000 spectators of the POPB, who, however, knew how to dominate their disappointment. The feast became defeat... but anyway it was always Edberg's first title in Paris!
The image is symbolic. Boris Becker starts his service action at the beginning of the seventh game in the final of Bercy 90. A grimace tears his face. The ball he has tossed slowly falls down. The action is broken. The tear affecting his left thigh since a few minutes makes it impossible to continue the fight.
His arms crossed. He waves that he's going to withdraw, for the big disappointment of the 15000 spectators crowding the arena. The great rise that had led him to the top of world tennis comes to a sudden stop. The disappointment is as high as the expectations generated by this duel. The award was nothing less than the world n°1 place occupied by Edberg since last August 13th. In one match, the leadership could go Becker's way.
Edberg-Becker was also a dream final, worthy of the greatest indoor tournament the Paris Open has become. The same final as the last two Wimbledon tournaments and the 1989 Masters. A serial and exciting duel that Becker is leading by 17 wins to 10 (see box). The n°1 against the n°2, a clash dreamt by all the organizers. The two greatest musicians in a temple of rock.
But the dream was gone after just 38 minutes of play. 3-3, but a slight advantage for Edberg, who had already got five break points. It was Boris' muscle that cracked - injury at the left quadriceps, as clarified by the medical statement -, a tear surely originating from the fact that he had wanted to relieve his painful right one since the beginning of the week.
If the German had arrived in Paris in an advanced state of wear, no doubt it was because of a pretty insane schedule that had led him to back-to-back tournaments since the start of October: victory in Sydney, final in Tokyo, victory in Stockholm, then final at Bercy. Twentyseven matches in singles and doubles! Comparable to 1986, when he had won Sydney, Tokyo and Bercy in three weeks. But this time his body collapsed.
So, honor to Stefan Edberg, who perfectly deserved his first title on French soil, the 27th of his career. Especially since he had already found himself in a similar situation in January in the Australian Open final, that time playing the role of victim against Ivan Lendl.
He couldn't help but smile at the idea of clinching 411 ATP points and the check of 270000 dollars that came along wth his victory. "I knew that I could lose my place of n°1, he explained, it's a shame because this could have been a great final."
Actually, beaten by Becker twice in less than a month, the last time very badly in Stockholm, Edberg was driven by a great feeling of revenge. The form he displayed throughout the tournament could give him confidence from this point of view. He did not lose a single set, «I hit better and I have a better control than the last week (in Stockholm) ». His service was also one of his reasons for satisfaction. One by one, he clearly dominated his opponents: Cherkasov, Krickstein, a player who had beaten him three times in the past, Hlasek and Bruguera, losing only 22 games in four matches before the final.
The quality of his concentration allowed him to keep an admirable consistency, both at the net and on the return. It is now likely that Stefan will end the year of his 24 at the of the tennis ranking with the key to a title of world champion.
So, Becker leaves Paris with a heavy heart to have lost his title, of course, but also with a decreased perspective for the ATP Finals of Frankfurt, in his Germany. The unfinished final also had the merit of being an apotheosis to a somewhat hybrid tournament.
Of course, all the expected stars were there but their physical form didn't allow them to play a leading role. Thus the quarter finals presented some unusual matches such as Raoux-Bruguera or Sanchez-Svensson.
In the game betting that we organized in our previous issue, there's a semifinalist which was really hard to find: Sergi Bruguera. The great Spanish hope, 19, had especially shined up on clay. He had a great success in his Paris route. Judge for yourself! In the first round, he eliminated an injured Leconte. Then he beat Gomez in three sets. The Roland Garros champion, it's true, had suffered five straight first round defeats since the month of August. At the following round, he didn't find much of a resistance from Rosset, before triumphing in the quarter final on a weary Raoux, who collapsed both physically and mentally in the third set, as attested by the three consecutive double faults in the game that gave Bruguera the break.
But the lanky Bruguera, always closely followed by his father Luis, has made clear progress on serve, hitting a good number of aces.
Equally unexpected, but less surprising, is the other semifinalist, Jonas Svensson. Champion in Toulose, last month, the Swede seems to appreciate France, as also proved by his two semifinals at Roland Garros. This discreet player has the potential to quickly break through the top-ten. His very deep shots and his ability to make the opponent play bad tennis, already earned him two wins on Lendl (at Roland Garros) and Becker (at the Australian Open 89).
He was about to renew this double exploit in the same tournament, because he had disposed of Lendl in the quarters before grazing the victory against Boris in the semifinal. An extraordinary match in which Jonas had on his racquet three balls to lead 6-4, 3-0, then another chance to break at 4-3 where he missed an easy smash, making two mistakes. Boris took advantage of this little lapse to get back and equalize the score after a close tie-break. Jonas acknowledged that this mental strenghth is one of the elements he needs to aim higher.
Only one Frenchman, Guillaume Raoux, was still in the tournament on Friday and it can't be said that he was the one expected (see box). The "armada tricolore" was defeated pretty fast. Henry Leconte, on which some expectations laid after the good form displayed at the Antwerp exhibition tournament, was disappointing. After a brilliant set, he broke up, injured at the right knee. It was once again a clumsy gesture abandoning his match against Bruguera when he was 5-2 down. He was overwhelmed by whistles from the crowd.
Yannick Noah, who was announced as new Davis Cup team captain on the first day of the tournament, looked once again untrained. He equally managed to collect a win against the Czech Karel Novacek, world number 33, 7-1 in the third set tie-break, before being dominated by Aaron Krickstein, an opponent he had defeated five times out of five before. It's worrying to the extent that Yannick will not get back to competition before February 91. A long absence that will have consequences on his ranking.
Guy Forget was equally disappointing. After a good first round against Agenor, he didn't manage to impose his game on Emilio Sanchez. He declared himself surprised by the attacks on his second serve.
Champion and Santoro, in the draw thanks to «wild cards» (invitations), didn't play bad. Thierry, the hero of Roland Garros, dominated Tim Mayotte, like in Flushing Meadows. But the winner of Bercy 87, in full lack of confidence, is no longer a reference, even on fast surfaces. Thierry was logically defeated by Svensson. As far as Santoro, he lacked energies after a very long first professional season. He was beaten on the distance by the Soviet Cherkasov, in three sets.
Sampras and Ivanisevic, two of the rising stars of the year, failed the appointment of Bercy. Both had a few physical excuses. The unexpected US Open champion had extended his rest after this achievement, to heal a right leg injury. He has also been having problems with his feet.
Although Raoux played a great match against him, Sampras was far from the form of early September. In recovery phase, the second tournament is often harder than the first where enthusiasm compensates an incomplete state of form. This was the case at Stockholm, his recovery toutnamant, where Pete had reached the semifinal.
Goran Ivanisevic, on his side, had a thigh problem. He played a lot in recent times leaving too many energies on the court of the Antwerp exhibition event that he won. This effort could cost him his place at the ATP Finals for which he is not yet qualified after Bercy.
In the category of the setting stars, noone shined. McEnroe was eliminated at the first round. The American had lost any chance of qualifying for Frankfurt in his European campaign (defeat against Jarryd in Vienna and Ivanisevic in Stockholm). In Bercy it was Hlasek who dominated him in a close, intense match in which John got a warning and a penalty point, a match that only found its solution in the third set tie-break. Two points away from victory on 6-5 in the last set, Mac dropped a down the line backhand return that was judged out with his great rage. A few centimeters, and he would have had match point. Furious, he refused to shake hands with Jakob Hlasek, surely accusing him of not giving him the point. Having announced he will not take part in the Grand Slam Cup, he's also on vacation.
Jakob Hlasek himself has proved to have found some of his form of 1988 after a start of the season marked by his split with Georges Deniau and a lingering shoulder pain.
Another thirty-year-old we expected better from was Ivan Lendl, beaten in the third round by Svensson. Weird impression left by the young dad, come to Paris with his wife and his daughter. Lendl seemed to lack of fighting spirit in the third set of this match. Also strange to see him relaxed after his defeat, joking with journalists. His year entirely focused on Wimbledon probably left him with little motivation.
His Japanese raquet was slightly enlarged and made him lose a little power but it has still proved enough to allow him to beat Edberg and Becker in Tokyo in early October. To judge the level of his determination, his behavior during the ATP Finals will be particularly interesting to follow.
In Frankfurt just after Bercy it's still Edberg who will arrive in a strong position. After this "stolen" final in Paris he will be keen to show that he is the leader of tennis. We dream of a true final with Becker in Germany, unless that damned torn muscle, after spoiling a party in Paris, dares to spoil another one in Frankfurt...
- Unbeatable number two
- Edberg's unique accomplishment
- The child of fortune
- Edberg Officially In Wilson's Court
- Edberg Comfortable at the Top