With feud behind them, Becker outfights Stich Ex-champs stage five-set struggle

July 01, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- A look, a shrug, a veiled comment -- that's all that remained of the Boris Becker-Michael Stich feud off the court yesterday. But on the court, they raged at one another.

"We both wanted to win very badly," said Stich, after the five-set quarterfinal grinder at Wimbledon. "And this time we each played our best tennis on the same day."

It took 4 hours and 15 minutes, and Becker prevailed, 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-4.

When it was over, they shook hands at the net. Becker patted Stich soundly on the back, and then Stich hurriedly packed his bag and left the court without waiting for Becker, as Wimbledon protocol demands.

Stich said he felt Becker played so well he deserved to hear the roar of the crowd alone.

Becker said: "I don't comment on protocol. He is old enough."

Two days ago, they had been in open conflict. Stich indicated Becker's best days were behind him. Becker said, "Friends we are not."

But at an off-court meeting Tuesday, they decided to play down their differences. And yesterday, after their tug of war, they worked hard to maintain the truce. It wasn't easy.

Becker got the break he needed in the fifth set, when he picked the right moment to call time.

The games were even at 1-1, but Stich was facing a break point. He had faulted his first serve and was in the middle of his serving motion, when Becker put up his hand and asked for a moment to wipe the sweat from his face and the handle of his racket.

Stich glared at him. When Becker returned to his position, Stich served into the net for a double fault that would be the difference in the deciding set.

"I think it was clever of him to do," Stich said. "It paid off."

When Becker was asked whether it was sweet revenge to beat Stich -- the man who had beaten him on Centre Court for the Wimbledon title in 1991 -- Becker did not bite.

"I am not a man seeking revenge," he said. "Revenge is for people who hate. I don't hate."

Yesterday, Becker was simply a man seeking the semifinals at Wimbledon. And even though he was in control of the fifth set, it took a major effort to get it.

"I think the difference in the match was that Boris never lost his composure," Stich said.

"In '91, he was arguing with himself the whole time. He was mentally very tough today. He never said a word."

Becker and Stich played 14 deuces in the fifth set. In the last game, the score seesawed, and Becker saw match point come and go three times before he collected.

"I didn't know what to serve anymore," Becker said. "He was hitting all the returns back, and he was passing me there a few times.

"At the end, I just thought, 'Hit it somewhere as hard as you can.' I actually didn't care which corner it was. I was just trying to hit it as hard as I could and, somehow, I managed to win the whole thing there. But it was very tight."

They had never played five sets. They had never been in a battle over every point.

Yesterday they had it all, and goodwill, too.

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