Do I not like that . . . A hero not a villain: Andrew Castle, the former British Davis Cup player, rallies to the cause of a vilified Boris Becker

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The Independent Online
OH DEAR, hasn't Boris Becker been a naughty boy] During a toilet break in his third-round match with Javier Frana, he received treatment from his personal trainer, and then, against Andrei Medvedev, he held his hand up as Medvedev was about to serve at three match points down. And in his quarter-final against Christian Bergstrom, he held his hand up again, as play was in progress and the German had set point in the crucial first-set tie-break.

The illegal treatment cost Becker a pounds 650 fine, which looks paltry in relation to his prize money, but what were Wimbledon to do? I have long advocated a system of fines based on a percentage of prize money won during a tournament. If Becker wins Wimbledon that pounds 650 will equate to 0.05 per cent of his prize money.

Becker claimed that he was unaware of the rules in relation to receiving treatment during a match, but he has been around long enough to know the deal.

John McEnroe, as quotable now as he was watchable as a player, stated that Boris should have been thrown out of the tournament for such a transgression of the rules. McEnroe, at times his own worst critic, freely acknowledges that there have been times when he should have been kicked out of tournaments, so to call him a hypocrite would be easy but unfair. I'm sure what McEnroe finds insulting in Becker's behaviour is its calculated nature; McEnroe would claim that his actions were always a result of spontaneous emotional combustion rather than a deliberate attempt to knock his opponent's psyche off balance.

What Becker has been up to is, in the words of Bergstrom, 'psychological warfare'. A number of sports observers, who should know better, have expressed surprise and shock as this side of the sport has been partially exposed. Why don't these people understand that this isn't a tea party. The prize at stake is the Wimbledon crown - not the Wimbledon of the gluttonous corporate hogs who gorge themselves at others' expense daily, nor the Wimbledon of the housewife juggling her daily schedule in order to catch the best action on the box. No, this is a chance for one man to scale the heights. To make history.

Let's be honest; we've all bent the rules at one time or another. I was playing that less-than-well- known Filipino Felix Barrientos in Kuala Lumpur in 1990. At a set and a break down, I took a strategic toilet break, in the company of a nervous line judge. Having feigned a wee-wee, I walked straight under a cold shower, fully clothed, thereby reducing my body temperature to a point where I could at least walk and see again. The match resumed and, suitably refreshed, I won. I guess I cheated. Sorry, but it's all about survival.

I have been on the receiving end of some of Becker's tricks myself. At two sets to one down in the third round of the US Open in 1988, he took an injury time-out as I was gaining momentum. The allotted time for on-court treatment is three minutes, yet he took more than 10. You might ask where were the officials during all this? Well, Becker is a big character, a lot bigger than most officials, unfortunately. He had got to me and rolled me over a few games later.

Back to Wimbledon 1994, the crucial question is this: have any of Boris Becker's actions altered the results of any of his matches? Probably not, I would submit.

My former Davis Cup colleague Nick Brown made a valid point when he said: 'The top guys have always received preferential treatment. Becker is no different.' Certainly the journeymen on the tour would agree with Nick, but haven't they earned that special treatment, a certain amount of leeway with the administrators? After all, they are the guys who fill the stands and, ultimately, everyone's pockets.

At a time when everyone is crying out for more character in the game, Becker is filling more column inches than any other male player. It's a shame that we don't all stop talking about Becker and watch Pete Sampras, who, under our very sniffy English noses, is elevating the game of tennis to new heights.

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