translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
These two have fought, but never denigrated. Not a word higher than the others, no adverse feeling confessed, respect above all, at the point that it was uncommon with them that a handshake was not accompanied by a warm embrace. Yes, nothing more than a simple rivalry opposed Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg and it was never better exposed than on the Wimbledon Centre Court where the two men fought for three consecutive years in the final from 1988 to 1990.
Strangely, no other Grand Slam final at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and the US Open, will put them against each other. At the end of the three finals played at the All England Club, Edberg was the one who came out on top with two wins against one from Becker.
In 1988, in a match played over two days because of rain, the Swede triumphed in four sets, probably exploiting an excessive confidence from the German who, with his two victories at Wimbledon in 1985 and 1986, had said on the eve of the final: "I am stronger than him mentally." Terrible mistake.
In 1989 Becker, at the top of his form, took revenge with brutality in three quick sets. The decisive match, therefore, took place in 1990 and was just the best of their English confrontations. It lasted five sets and it was fatal to Becker to have completely missed his first two and to have squandered a 3-1 lead in the last one.
Between 1984 and 1996, the two men faced 35 times in official matches, but only four times in Grand Slams: three times at Wimbledon, as we said, and once at the Roland Garros in 1989 in a sumptuous semifinal that Edberg bravely played always attacking even on clay. Edberg came out on top of these matches, yet he was almost "crushed" in their head-to-head record, dominated head and shoulders by Becker 25 wins to 10, with the man nicknamed Boom Boom who triumphed in their last eight duels.
Armed with his firepower, Becker was perhaps a more complete player than Edberg, but where German complicated his life, the Swedish, modest among modests, always made things simple. On clay, where he played against nature, Becker has, for example, never won any trophy, while Edberg won in Hamburg and managed to play the final at the Roland Garros, despite the handicap that his attacking style of play could represent.
At the end of their careers, they won six Grand Slam titles each. An equality that does not reflect, as we have seen, their head-to-head record, but that well symbolized their place in history and the parallelism of their paths...
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