Becker Proves Equal to the Task : Davis Cup: He overpowers Sweden’s Stefan Edberg in straight sets as West Germany evens the final at 1-1.
Boris Becker and Mats Wilander were looking for revenge. Both got it in their opening singles matches of the Davis Cup final Friday.
Becker, who lost to Stefan Edberg in the Masters final less than two weeks ago, overpowered the Swede, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, to even the best-of-five final between West Germany and Sweden at one match apiece.
Wilander needed nearly 4 1/2 hours to beat Carl-Uwe Steeb, 5-7, 7-6 (7-0), 6-7 (7-4), 6-2, 6-3, getting even for a bitter, five-set loss to the West German in the first match of last year’s Cup final on an indoor clay court at Goteborg, Sweden.
Becker, serving and returning to near-perfection, needed less than two hours to beat Edberg.
“I don’t think I can play any better,” Becker said. “I played great tennis against a very good opponent.”
Edberg’s superb serve-and-volley game keyed his Masters win. This time, it was Becker’s turn to attack.
“I said then that the loss was going to help me in order to pump myself up for this match,” Becker said. “That’s exactly what happened. I trained hard the last 10 days, and in a way the (Masters) loss was good for me.”
After winning the first two sets with ease, the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion hit some outstanding returns to take a 4-3 lead in the third set.
Becker, who faced a break point in the sixth game, then ended the match by twice holding his serve at love in the eighth and 10th games before a partisan sellout crowd of 10,500 at Schleyer Halle. He slammed 12 aces past Edberg on the fast carpet.
“The key was that I got an early break,” said Becker, whose win gave him a 14-8 match record against Edberg. “Once I started to roll, I didn’t look back any more and I played better and better. I also had a very good return.”
The doubles match today will pit Becker and Eric Jelen against Anders Jarryd and Jan Gunnarsson. These pairings were announced at Thursday’s draw, but both team captains may make changes until one hour before the start of the match.
“The doubles will be a very important match,” Becker said. “Both teams still have a good chance to win. It’s a pity ‘Charly’ couldn’t win, but Mats is a good player. Everything is still wide open.”
In last year’s final, Becker and Jelen rallied from two sets down to defeat Edberg and Jarryd, clinching West Germany’s first Davis Cup title.
After outlasting Steeb, Wilander said: “A match like this today is maybe comparable with a few of the Grand Slams.
“Maybe not the U.S. Open, but it means a lot for me. It’s great that it means so much for the team and for Sweden. It’s a great feeling. I think it’s the first time I’ve won a five-set match in a Davis Cup final.
“I don’t know if I played better today than last year. I wanted to play better and I wanted to win this match. I was psyched up.”
The setback in last year’s final started Wilander’s slide. He dropped out of the top 10 early this year after finishing 1988 as No. 1 after his three Grand Slam titles--in the Australian, French and U.S. opens.
“I think it’s a good end of a lousy year,” said Wilander, ranked 12th in the world. “Next year is going to be different.”
Wilander, who has beaten Steeb in two of their three meetings, took command after a 10-minute break following the third set.
“Things started to turn around a little in the fourth and fifth sets,” Wilander said. “I got an early break in the fourth set and that was really important.
“That break changed the whole thing. Then I started playing with more confidence.”
Steeb, who saved one match point before upsetting Wilander in last year’s opener, staved off one at 3-5 in the fifth set Friday.
But Wilander, serving for the match, connected on his second, blasting a forehand volley into the open court after a high return by Steeb.
Wilander led every set by 5-2 or 5-3 scores. But Steeb rallied from 3-5 to win the first set, 7-5, taking the last three games at love.
In the second set, Steeb came back from a 2-5 deficit to force a tiebreaker at 6-6 after fighting off four set points in two previous games. But Wilander ripped through the tiebreaker, 7-0.
Wilander also held a 5-3 lead in the third set, but Steeb was only one service break down. He broke back in the 10th game to tie at 5-5. The West German took the tiebreaker, 7-4, but that was his last big moment.