Becker showing teen spirit 3-time champion rolls in 2nd round

June 24, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- Boris Becker fell all over himself yesterday proving a point at Centre Court.

Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion, dived and leaped and aced his way to a 7-6 (7-3), 6-1, 6-3 victory over Alexander Volkov. Becker was sending the rest of the competition a message.

"I am not playing like I was 17 again," said Becker after the match, wearing the Chicago Bulls cap he now considers lucky, his ginger beard still glistening from his on-court effort. "I am playing like I was 18. Why? Because at 18 I played better, even than I had at 17. In the 1986 championship here, I thought I played the best of my life."

Becker, the No. 4 seed, is 25 and two years removed from his last Grand Slam tournament victory, in Australia.

But when he comes to Wimbledon, he always comes with hope.

"I always think about the past," he said. "I think about the good times I had here and probably that, and the fact that my game is suited to grass, is why I feel well when I'm here. I'm having a good time. I enjoy the city, and I enjoy Wimbledon."

It is something of a reincarnation for Becker, who won first at 17 in 1985, repeated in 1986 and then won for the last time in 1989.

He usually is talking about his tortured soul and demonstrating his frustrations on court. But in his first two matches this week, he has seemed to be playing more in control, and the fans simply adore him, offering standing ovations at every opportunity.

His body language is positive, his serve strong. He seems on a mission of sorts, dating to last September, when he lost to Ivan Lendl in the fourth round at the U.S. Open.

"I am going to play all those players again, and then maybe I'm going to win 6-3 in the fifth," he said. "I just have to go on and train and fight."

Still, coming into Wimbledon, his chances were viewed as suspect. But then, so were those of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. But Agassi, who was bothered by tendinitis in his wrist, and Sampras, who worried about a shoulder inflammation, also have rolled in the early rounds that often produce upsets

"Maybe those who questioned our chances didn't know as much as they thought they did," Becker said. "I had six bad outings on clay this year, but other than that, I've played well, and I felt, once I got to the grass at Wimbledon, I would do well."

His first-round match was a kind of informational test. He played Marc Goellner, a 22-year-old German, who mirrored the style of Becker at 17.

Goellner, 6 feet 5, managed to make Becker look grown up, but not old. The former champion served 20 aces and hit his stride after the first set, winning, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.

"I would prefer not to think of the inspiration I provide to the young tennis players in Germany until after I retire," Becker said. "But they seem to get taller and taller. Always I am having to look up, up, up. Such a pain in my neck. I wish they don't play as well as they do, to tell the truth. They always try to give me such a hard time."

After yesterday's victory over Volkov, No. 20 in the world, Becker said: "I don't know if this will be my year or not, but I feel very good. I have played two good opponents on grass, and I beat them quite easily. You know if you are serving 15, 20 aces a match, that that is always a good sign.

"And, yes, if that is a message, let it be a message, because I am feeling well. You can say I am content with my game today."

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