Davis Cup Tennis Final : Surprising Steeb, Becker Give West Germany 2-0 Lead

Associated Press

Carl-Uwe Steeb and Boris Becker beat Sweden’s Grand Slam tournament winners in the opening singles matches to give West Germany a commanding 2-0 lead over the defending champions in the Davis Cup final Friday night.

Steeb was the surprise of the day, coming back from a 2-set deficit to upset Mats Wilander in a 5-set match lasting 5 hours on the red indoor clay of the Scandinavium Arena.

Steeb, who is ranked 74th in the world, stunned the world’s top-ranked player, 8-10, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4, 8-6, after saving a match point at 5-6 in the decisive set.

Becker then easily defeated Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, in their first meeting on clay.

“I think I played pretty good on clay tonight,” said Becker, who lost to Edberg in the Wimbledon final and also was beaten by the Swede in a round-robin match of the Masters earlier this month.


Becker thought he had a better chance from the beginning “because Stefan has not played so many clay court tournaments this year.”

Edberg and Anders Jarryd need to win today’s doubles over Becker and Eric Jelen if the Swedes are to stay alive in the best-of-5 series.

But only once in Davis Cup history has a team came back from a 0-2 deficit to win the final. That was in 1939, when Australia edged the United States, 3-2, after losing the opening singles at Philadelphia.

Becker’s better all-court game spelled the difference against Edberg. The German hit his groundstrokes deep and moved much better throughout the match.

Edberg changed tactics in the third set, playing more aggressive tennis. The Swede had two chances to take a 4-2 lead, but Becker saved both break points.

Becker’s only service break came in the seventh game after nailing a brilliant return. That made it 4-3. The German lost only 2 points in his remaining 2 service games, wrapping up the match with a smash.

Earlier, Steeb said he had never played so well in such an important match before.

“I’m so happy,” said Steeb after the finest victory of his career. “I just went for my strokes all the time. In the last 3 sets I think I played real well.”

Wilander, a 3-time French Open champion known for his superb physical condition, had never before lost a 5-set match after winning the first 2 sets.

“I played more aggressive in the end and made my own points,” Steeb said. “Mats looked tired and he missed his passing shots when I came in.”

Steeb had predicted after Thursday’s draw that he would give West Germany a 1-0 lead, saying, “I will have nothing to lose and I can play relaxed.

Hardly anyone paid attention to his remark.

But the 21-year old West German, who had lost a 3-set match to Wilander in this year’s Italian Open in their only previous meeting, was able to play relaxed.

“Of course, I was nervous in the beginning, but after 4 hours of play you don’t think about it,” Steeb said.

Wilander, who had problems concentrating, especially in the third and fourth sets, said Steeb played well tactically.

“He was mixing his shots, sometimes coming in, then staying back,” said Wilander, who is 32-10 in Davis Cup singles play. “Sometimes he hit long, high backhands. I never knew what he was going to do.”