Stefan Edberg during the 1988 Wimbledon final (picture contributed by La Zingara)
from The New York Times
by Peter Alfano
Maybe it was the rain that doused Boris Becker's flame, the starting and stopping these past two days, giving him and Stefan Edberg the look of volunteer firemen answering a series of Wimbledon false alarms. Maybe, as Becker suggested, he expended too much energy and emotion when he beat the defending champion and then the No. 1 player in the world in the quarterfinals and semifinals, matches that were like finals for him.
But as Becker stood dejectedly with his arms folded on Centre Court today, watching the postmatch ceremony for the first time in a supporting role, it must have crossed his mind that the better player was Edberg, whose game and low-key manner were more suited to the grass courts on an otherwise chilly, dreary day.
Edberg finally lived up to expectations, fulfilling his primary goal this year. At 22 years old, the blond Swede with the pleasant disposition (which some have mistaken for a lack of resolve) is the Wimbledon champion, having defeated Becker, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2, in the first men's final to be played over two days.
''It's hard to believe I really won it,'' Edberg said. ''This is something I've worked a long time for. It was my target this year. It's a fantastic feeling that hasn't sunk into my system yet.''
During the ceremony, Edberg walked around the court holding the Challenge Cup, grinning, shaking his head in disbelief. When he walked to the side where Becker stood, the 20-year-old West German made a request.
''I asked him if I could touch the trophy, to know what it feels like,'' Becker said. Becker had his chance to raise the trophy in 1985 and '86. He dedicated this year to reclaiming it after being eliminated in a traumatic second-round loss in 1987. Before the final, he said that he felt he was psychologically stronger than Edberg, whom he had beaten in 9 of 14 matches.
His road in the top half of the draw, however, was not easy. He defeated Pat Cash of Australia, the defending champion, then Ivan Lendl, No. 1 in the world, in a match also lasting two days because of rain. Edberg was one hurdle too many, a superb serve-and-volleyer who is at his best on grass.
''I'm a human being,'' Becker said, ''and when you beat the defending champion and the No. 1 player, you say: 'What am I doing out here? I've done everything I had to do to win the tournament.''
Lost in Crowd
Edberg is shy, preferring to be just a face in the crowd. In Manhattan, he can go shopping without being recognized; in London, where he now lives, he can dine without being besieged by autograph-seekers.
He understands that winning Wimbledon may change that now. ''It hasn't yet,'' he joked 30 minutes after the match. ''I think you can make your own problems. My life may change a little bit, people will recognize me, but I don't think I'll get bothered.''
The match had progressed only five games Sunday, when play resumed at 1:05 P.M. today, 2 hours 5 minutes after the scheduled start. The rain held off long enough for Becker to break Edberg and lead, 5-4. Following another lengthy delay, the players trudged back onto the court.
This was one instance where Edberg's dispassionate manner worked in his favor. During the first delay today, Edberg was eating ravioli with his coach, Tony Pickard, and his agent, Tom Ross, when he noticed that the sun was shining. ''I better stop,'' he said, then calmly prepared to play.
Although Becker held serve to win the first set, Edberg's play began to improve. He does not have a big booming serve like Becker's, but he places it well. What makes Edberg so effective is his net play. He was like a wall today, gradually frustrating Becker.
Becker began stomping in the backcourt, pleading to himself, gesturing, even throwing his racquet, drawing a warning from the chair umpire, Jerry Armstrong.
There were two key points in the match, both in the second set. At 3-3, Becker held a break point when Edberg double-faulted for the fifth time. But Edberg held, winning the game with an overhead winner.
In the tie breaker, Edberg took the first 5 points, and eventually won, 7 points to 2, closing out the set with a service winner. There was a dramatic mood swing in the match, with Becker struggling to hold serve and Edberg sailing along, hitting volley winners.
''I just felt that I could hardly miss the ball,'' Edberg said.
He broke Becker in the third game of the third set with a deep forehand-volley winner. He broke him again in the first game of the fourth set when Becker netted a midcourt forehand and then double-faulted. The look on Becker's face was one of disbelief.
As the end drew near and his serve became shaky, Edberg fought off his anxiety at the net, never losing his touch. He was relieved, though, when Becker charged in for a short forehand and smacked the ball into the net on match point.
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