Becker vs. Stich: No quarter given in quarterfinals

June 29, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

WIMLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England -- They are both German, but the only thing No. 4 Boris Becker and No. 6 Michael Stich agreed on yesterday as they faced the prospect of playing each other in the men's quarterfinals tomorrow is that they aren't going to dinner together any time soon.

"I don't dislike him," Stich said. "But we don't have much in common."

"We respect each other," Becker said. "Friends we are not. Respect, I think that is as much as it can get."

If they were pro boxers, you might write it off as an act to build publicity for their match.

But this is real. Stich openly criticized Becker for not playing in the Davis Cup this year. Becker, a three-time Wimbledon winner, still is hurting, having lost to Stich in the 1991 Wimbledon final.

"My most painful memory," he said.

In fact, it is the only memory that spoils Becker's Wimbledon memories. Aside from that match, every other time he thought he deserved to win here, he has.

So, yesterday, when Stich and Becker each arrived in his own time to talk about their coming match, the fact that they disagreed on almost everything seemed to mean only that the world still is spinning on its axis.

Becker, gazing out from under his Chicago Bulls cap, said he anticipated the rematch of their 1991 final to be a very exciting match.

Stich anticipates no such thing.

"Probably our match will be very boring," he said after his DTC straight-set victory over Petr Korda, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 7-6 (7-3). "All the matches we play against each other are normally very easy for one or the other. We never have tough fights.

"Is it exciting if someone wins, 6-1, 6-1? I don't think so. I never hear somebody telling me that the matches I played against Boris were really entertaining. I lost in Milan, 6-2, 6-2. I beat him here in 1991, and I didn't hear anybody coming off the court saying that was a great match. When you compare it, let's say, with the finals of last year. That was like great competition, and like two different styles of games playing against each other."

They have the same style: big serves and the ability to volley, though Stich points to statistics to show that his ability to play that style may be better than Becker's.

When he speaks of Becker's achievements, Stich speaks in the past tense. He "was" great. He admires "what he did, what he achieved" in tennis.

"You can just look at the record books," he said. "There is no question about it. His Grand Slam record over the past two years is not that great compared to the Grand Slam record he had before, when it was just incredibly good. I think he played better two years ago -- but I think he is still a good player."

Just not that good.

Becker licked his lips. He thinks he is playing as he did as an 18-year-old seven years ago. But Stich can say what he wants. Stich beat Becker at Queens, two weeks before Wimbledon. He beat him in their last meeting here -- that 1991 final.

Stich can say what he likes, but Becker has his own ideas.

Yesterday, Becker had enough answers to beat crowd favorite Henri Leconte, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Leconte, of France, was the only men's player still active yesterday who had not dropped a set. But Leconte found Becker's booming serves and returns too much for his artistry.

And the story turned out to be familiar to both. They had met here twice before -- in 1985 in the quarterfinals and 1986 in the semis. Becker won each time in four sets and went on to win the Wimbledon title -- a sign for those who believe in omens, perhaps.

Becker, however, is not buying such witchcraft. He is a practical man. He would rather put his faith in something more sound, like the fact that he has lost only three service games in the entire tournament.

"I think that speaks for itself," he said.

Still he wants more from himself. Specifically, he saw places against Leconte where he could have played better.

"I have to make more of my break-point opportunities," Becker said. "I had him 0-30 twice and was not able to make those breaks. In the fourth set, it was 6-3, but I had him again 0-30, and in the last game I had him 15-40 again, and not able to make it. That has to be better against Michael."

TODAY'S KEY MATCHES

CENTRE COURT

Steffi Graf (1), Germany, vs. Jennifer Capriati (7), Saddlebrook, Fla. Natalia Zvereva, Belarus, vs. Martina Navratilova (2), Aspen, Colo. Grant Connell, Canada, and Patrick Galbraith (5), Tacoma, Wash., vs. Patrick McEnroe, Oyster Bay, N.Y., and Jonathan Stark (3), Medford, Ore.

COURT 1

Jana Novotna, (8), Czech Republic, vs. Gabriela Sabatini (4), Argentina. Helena Sukova (15), Czech Republic, vs. Conchita Martinez (6), Spain. Paul Hand and Chris Wilkinson, Britain, vs. Rikard Bergh, Sweden, and Byron Talbot, South Africa.

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