Tennis: Becker defeated by wrist injury

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The freak wrist injury that ended Boris Becker's Wimbledon campaign last June flared up again yesterday, causing him to withdraw from the quarter- finals of the Dubai Open and return to his team of doctors in Munich.

"I can barely open a bottle of water or shake hands with people right now, and it makes no sense to continue and make the wrist worse," Becker said after making an appearance on the Centre Court to apologise to a capacity crowd of 5,000 for not being able to play against Goran Ivanisevic, the No 1 seed and defending champion.

Becker, 29, intends to have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan "to see if it's a strong case of tendinitis or something worse. At this stage I just know that I can't play today".

The injury originated on Wimbledon's Court No 1 when Becker played a forehand shot on the first point of a tie-break in the opening set of his third round match against Neville Godwin, of South Africa. Becker suffered a partial tear of the ulnar extensor tendon in his right wrist.

Initially Becker was out of the game for 10 weeks, and then he had to retire during the first round when returning in Bucharest in September. A month later he won the Vienna tournament, but then withdrew from a second- round match in Ostrava because of pain in his wrist.

After impressive year-end performances in Stuttgart and at ATP Tour Championship in Hanover and the Grand Slam Cup in Munich, Becker was beaten by Carlos Moya, of Spain, in the first round of the Australian Open last month.

"In November and December the wrist was fine, and in Australia it was fine," Becker said, adding that he continues to experience pain when he moves to a new tournament with a different surface and different balls.

"Usually I am able to adjust during a first-round match and the wrist is a little better," he said. "This week, unfortunately, it got worse and worse. I've been taking anti-inflammatories. Usually I take one or two a day and get rid of the pain. This week I've taken more each day. It's too scary for me.''

Although regularly complaining about the change in pressure in the balls from tournament to tournament, Becker does not blame the Wimbledon balls for his injury. "The balls at Wimbledon have been made heavier, but it was just an accident that could have happened anywhere, on any surface, at any tournament," he said.

Yesterday also brought disappointment for Richard Krajicek, the reigning Wimbledon champion and No 3 seed here, who is rehabilitating his career after knee surgery. The Dutchman's first event of the year ended with a quarter-final defeat by the Czech Jiri Novak, 6-2, 6-2.

Novak, ranked No 67, will play Ivanisevic in the semi-finals today. The 21-year-old Czech arrived here following Davis Cup duty against India last weekend. He began the week with a narrow victory against Moya, and his confident groundstrokes were too good for an erratic Krajicek.

Jim Courier is another player who has managed to hold his form after a hectic Davis Cup tie, the difference being that Courier had to come all the way from Brazil.

After defeating Wayne Ferreira 6-2, 7-5, Courier said: "It's very rewarding to come half-way across the planet, pick it up and go on. I left Brazil on Sunday evening at 9 o'clock and arrived here at 2 am Tuesday, via Zurich. I just needed a couple of good night's sleep." He then played on Wednesday, on Thursday, yesterday - and will be back on court to play Thomas Muster in the semi-finals today.

Results, Digest, page 31