Classic Rivalries: Edberg vs Becker
As the amazing rivalries of the 70s and early 80s came to an end, new tennis superstars emerged to continue the tradition. One of the most entertaining rivalries of the late 80s and early 90s was between Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker. Edberg had an elegant and classic looking serve and volley game while Becker was known for his imposing athletic disposition and booming serve.
Boris Becker will also forever be known for winning Wimbledon in 1985 as a 17-year-old, becoming the youngest champion in the history of that tournament. Even more impressive is the fact that he defended his Wimbledon title the very next year at the age of 18. Becker finished his career with six Grand Slam titles and 11 top 10 finishes during his career. Wimbledon would be where he would post his biggest results, reaching seven finals and winning three. For a long time, if you were going to win Wimbledon, you’d have to get through big Boris Becker.
Unfortunately for Boris Becker, there was another exceptional grass court player as his contemporary during the late 80s and early 90s. His name was Stefan Edberg. Edberg was one year older than Becker. Like Becker, he won six Grand Slam titles. He had 10 top ten finishes during his career. Unlike Becker though, Edberg managed to finish the year number one in the world for two consecutive years, 1990 and 1991.
So how did these two tennis greats fare against each other?
Becker and Edberg played a total of 35 times between 1984 and 1996. Becker leads the head to head decisively 25-10. However, this lopsided stat does not tell the whole story. What these two guys will be most remembered for is the fact that they contested three consecutive Wimbledon finals from 1988 to 1990.
In 1988 Edberg shocked Becker in four sets. Becker was the favorite in this final, having already bagged two Wimbledon titles in 85 and 86. Edberg’s best result had been a semifinal appearance the previous year. Becker had also beaten Edberg at Queens Club a few weeks prior. Becker would not be able to contend with an inspired Edberg who would go on to win his first Wimbledon in four hard fought sets.
1989 would be a different story, with Becker winning decisively in three straight sets. 1989 would be Becker’s best year as he would go on to capture the US Open as well.
1990 would be their last meeting at Wimbledon, and they would put on a five set classic. Becker would come in as the number two seed while Edberg would come in as the number three seed. Both players were now firmly established in the top four in the world. Becker would come in as the favorite again, but it was not to be. Edberg was too strong in the end.
Becker would end up winning the last eight encounters with Edberg during the rest of their careers. However, those three Wimbledon finals will forever be etched in tennis’ fans minds.
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