Now, Wimbledon loses Becker Likely broken wrist sidelines No. 2 seed

June 29, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WIMBLEDON, England -- When he woke up yesterday in the spacious home he rents just beyond these Wimbledon walls, Boris Becker, the No. 2 seed, thought he would be safely through to the round of 16 by the time the predicted drizzle closed things down late in the afternoon.

Instead, Becker found himself in the hospital with a suspected broken wrist he incurred when he tried to return what seemed like an innocuous second serve from his hitherto anonymous opponent, Neville Godwin.

With that single stroke, this star-crossed, star-starved Grand Slam tournament found itself bereft of the commanding presence of the man considered to pose the most significant challenge to Pete Sampras in his quest for a fourth consecutive championship.

That fact was not lost on Becker, who captured the last of his three titles here in 1989, but was runner-up to Sampras last year and hungry to improve on that finish.

"You know, I was one of the few who had a serious chance of winning the whole thing; I was playing great tennis and the draw didn't look too bad," said Becker, whose side of the draw now has just two seeded players, 11th-seeded Wayne Ferreira and 13th-seeded Todd Martin, neither of whom completed his third-round match yesterday.

Never before in the open era has Wimbledon seen so prominent a contender forced to retire from the competition. When Ivan Lendl, who never won here, with drew in 1992, his chronic back problems had already made it unlikely he could endure the full seven rounds.

Yesterday, Becker left Court 1 without waving goodbye, an incredible 6-6 (0-1) loser of his third-round match against Godwin, a South African he had neither seen nor heard of before this match.

Becker hurt his wrist, and this Slam, when he swung at the second serve of Godwin, ranked 223rd in the world, on the first point of the tie-breaker.

"He hit a pretty hard second serve into my body, and I was trying to hit a forehand and hit it too late, and my wrist gave way and I heard something pop," said Becker, who immediately dropped his racket and grabbed his wrist with his left hand.

"From then on, I couldn't hold the racket anymore, and I thought, 'The wrist is going to go away,' " said Becker, who thought right.

Becker grimaced as his wrist was massaged and taped by a trainer, and a tournament official hovered with a stopwatch to monitor the required three-minute injury timeout.

Throughout the mini-drama, the only one unconcerned was Godwin. He lay on his back on the lawn with his feet propped up on his changeover chair.

"For me to be in the fourth round is unbelievable, but obviously I would have liked to win the match fair and square," Godwin said. "It doesn't feel like a victory." He admitted he had not gone into the match with any expectations. "I mean, you don't look to beat Boris Becker at Wimbledon on the No. 1 court."

But 60 minutes after it began, the match, in which Becker twice broke Godwin's serve and then failed to hold his own service, was over.

Had anyone predicted Godwin would not only survive three qualifying rounds, but defeat Becker, who has prowled these courts like a lion, the South African said he would have "touched their head to feel their temperature . . . and tell them they're going nuts."

The second-seeded Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion, completed a picture-perfect tuneup for this year's event by defeating Stefan Edberg in the Queen's Club final two weeks ago. He was stunned by the abrupt reversal of fortune yesterday at the event he regards as the highlight of his year.

"An injury never comes at the right time, but coming at Wimbledon is as bad as it can be," said Becker, who broke his ankle here in the third round in 1984, but made a triumphant return and won this tournament as an unseeded 17-year-old in 1985.

This year, Becker collected his seventh Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, but missed the French, which he has never won, because of a thigh injury.

The daily upset victim in the women's draw was 11th-seeded Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, who failed to prevail in a 7-5, 3-6, 12-10 epic with 28th-ranked Sabine Appelmans of Belgium.

The congenial, 6-foot-2-inch Schultz-McCarthy owns the fastest serve on the circuit, but has trouble with the rest of her game.

Pub Date: 6/29/96

Today's feature matches

(Seeds in parentheses)

Men: Tim Henman, Britain, vs. Luke Milligan, Britain. Pete Sampras (1), Tampa, Fla., vs. Karol Kucera, Slovakia. Goran Ivanisevic (4), Croatia, vs. Alexander Volkov, Russia. Patrick Rafter, Australia, vs. Marc Rosset (14), Switzerland. Michael Stich (10), Germany, vs. Sandon Stolle, Australia.

Women: Steffi Graf (1), Germany, vs. Nicole Arendt, Gainesville, Fla. Anke Huber (5), Germany, vs. Ai Sugiyama, Japan. Conchita Martinez (3), Spain, vs. Lori McNeil, Houston. Jan Kroslak, Slovakia, vs. Cedric Pioline (16), France. Ruxandra Dragomir,

Romania, vs. Jana Novotna (6), Czech Republic.

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