Classic Rivalries – Lendl vs. Becker

AP/Ron Frehm, file

Classic Rivalries – Lendl vs. Becker

Although seven years his senior, Lendl’s prime coincided with Becker’s prime. The reason for this is because Becker peaked so young. Remember, he won two of his Wimbledon titles at age 17 and 18. Lendl did not win his first major until he was 24 years old. In all Lendl and Becker met 21 times during their careers, with Becker winning 10 times vs. Lendl’s 11 victories. As many will remember, their most classic encounters occurred in the finals of Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open. Unfortunately for Lendl, it was Becker who came out the winner in those Grand Slam Finals. Let’s take a look at the three Grand Slam finals they contested and the outcome.

1986 Wimbledon Final

Coming off fresh from his second French Open title, and seeded number one, Lendl would face defending champion and teenage sensation Boris Becker in this final. Lendl was the favorite in this final. Repeat wins at Wimbledon were rare in this era, and Lendl had solidified his status as number one in the world. In the end, Boris Becker would frustrate Lendl, and take this final in straight sets to win his second Grand Slam title in as many years. 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

1989 US Open Final

This hard-fought final pitted the best two players of 1989 against each other. Number two seed Becker was coming off winning his third Wimbledon title, while number one seed Lendl had won the Australian earlier in the year. This blockbuster final went four sets, which included two tie breaks. 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6. Of note, 1989 will be remembered for the fact that Becker won the most Grand Slam titles that year (2 vs. Lendl’s 1), but was unable to overtake Lendl as year-end number one.

1991 Australian Final

Lendl came in as the number three seed and two-time defending champion. Becker came in as the number two seed behind Stefan Edberg, who had now established himself as the number one player in the world. Although Becker had finished 1990 as the number two player in the world, he had been unable to capture a Grand Slam. Lendl started strong in this final taking the first set easily from Becker. However, Becker would take the next three sets by a break.

These two would not meet again in a Grand Slam final. As a consolation, Lendl would win their last Grand Slam meeting in the 1992 US Open round of 16 in a five set classic.

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