Tennis: Wimbledon '94 / Becker's signals have Bergstrom seeing red: German rounds on media after antics in quarter-final again cause offence as Sampras' power game overwhelms Chang

AT LEAST one signalman was on duty yesterday, not that Boris Becker's gesture was appreciated any more than his other antics en route to a meeting with Goran Ivanisevic in the semi-finals tomorrow. The poor chap would be in danger of developing a persecution complex were he not so self-assured.

Christian Bergstrom, of Sweden, became the latest player to complain about Becker's behaviour as the catalogue of alleged gamesmanship mounted: treatment during a toilet break (when playing Javier Frana), delaying tactics (against Andrei Medvedev) and now distracting his opponent by raising an arm and calling a ball out.

The three-times champion, who won his quarter-final against Bergstrom on Court One, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3, was at set point in the tie-break, 6-5, when the Swede made a smash. Becker, certain that the ball had landed beyond the baseline, played a half-volley and protested while the ball was in flight.

Bergstrom subequently missed a forehand volley, and the umpire, Wayne McKewen, from Australia, refused his request that the point be replayed. The Swede vented his frustration by taking a backhand swipe at a cup of Coke, the contents of which splashed the net-cord judge on the face.

Becker, a break down at the start of the second set, patted a Bergstrom serve back at 0-40 in the second game, indicating that he was not ready to receive, and immediately levelled, 1-1. Then, when leading 5-4 with Bergstrom serving at 0-40, Becker took time to wipe himself with a towel before breaking to take the set.

Tony Gathercole, an assistant to the referee, Alan Mills, began to check the time Becker was taking between points, and the All England Club received dozens of telephone calls from television viewers complaining about the German's conduct.

Becker pointed a finger at the media; specifically, at the media's obsession with Andre Agassi. 'The main problem is Andre Agassi is out, and you've got to find a guy to fill in the space,' he said. 'You've found one here. It's a pity, you know. I'm very proud to be in the last four in Wimbledon, and the only thing we talk about is what I have done in the matches past.'

Bergstrom confirmed that Becker's actions had unsettled him, 'especially when he put up his hand on the set point in the first set. That disturbed me, and I missed the volley completely, because I stopped playing, too. I felt (the point) had to be replayed.'

Asked if he agreed with Medvedev that such behaviour amounted to cheating, the Swede said: 'I wouldn't go as far as 'cheating', but sometimes it's a little bit disturbing, yes. In every match there is a little psychological war, and you do what is best for you to win. Some people do other things, some people do this. The basic thing is you do what is good for you, for you own concentration, and that's how it is.'

Becker acknowledged that this was the case, and had been throughout his career. 'I want to make one thing clear,' he said of the criticism. 'I don't like what's going on for the past two or three days. I'm doing the same things for the past 10 years. All of a sudden, this is not supposed to be fair play.

'Everybody is doing their own things on the court, and that's just part of our job. This is no little tournament, where we go to have some fun. This is the most important tennis tournament for all the players in the world. Everybody is trying their hardest to win here, including Boris Becker. I'm doing everything within the rules.

'We had a long rally, and he (Bergstrom) was at the net. He smashed it and I thought he smashed it long. I showed the umpire that he smashed it long, but the umpire and the linesman didn't think so, and he missed his next volley. That was it.

'I don't delay anything. I'm just not as fast all the time on the court as the other guys. I'm all the time the guy who walks around the court a little bit. But I'm doing it in the first point, I'm doing after two hours, and I'm doing it after four hours. It's just my style, you know.'

Players who objected to his style, he added, were guilty of sour grapes: 'Maybe the main reason why they speak up is because they lost.'

This scarcely could be applied to Bergstrom, who held his own hand up and said: 'I lost because he was the better player today. I'm just a little bit disappointed that I didn't have the right standard to beat him.'

The 26-year-old from Gothenburg is accustomed to disappointment. He lost in straight sets to his compatriot Stefan Edberg in 1990 quarter-finals, has never won a title, and is ranked No 112 in the world.

Pete Sampras, in contrast, continues to demonstrate why he is the leading player. Even on a day when only half of his first serves were on target, the defending champion still had too much power and all-round ability for his American compatriot, Michael Chang.

Though Sampras won as convincingly as 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 indicates, Chang contributed enormously to a fascinating contest. He returned serve well and retrieved in characteristic style to provoke more rallies than usually feature in a Sampras match. Sampras, in turn, showed that he could trade groundstrokes from the baseline, and that he is far more than a two-shot wonder.

None the less, he has advanced to the last four in a total of 8hr 25min without conceding a set, having been broken once in 71 service games (in the third set of his second-round match against Richey Reneberg).

Todd Martin, on the other hand, has toiled on most of his journey to challenge Sampras for a place in the final. Four of the American's five matches have required five sets, the latest victory, against South Africa's Wayne Ferreira, being accomplished in 3hr 4min, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 7-5.

'I'm very tired right now,' the resilient Martin said, 'but I'm not going to be tired when it comes to Friday. I don't think it's an advantage to be on the court an obscene amount of time, but I'm going to be ready to play.' Perhaps Sampras should pack an overnight case.

----------------------------------------------------------------- MEN'S SINGLES SEMI-FINALS ----------------------------------------------------------------- P SAMPRAS (US) v T MARTIN (US) B BECKER (Ger) v G IVANISEVIC (Croa) -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

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