Tennis Wimbledon: Pumped-up Becker's tennis lesson

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The Independent Online
IN A previous age Roger Taylor once settled his personal match points by chinning the South African Bob Hewitt and, for a few moments yesterday, you wondered whether Boris Becker's valedictory appearance at Wimbledon might be even more explosive than his thundering first serve.

The door on to Centre Court opened, a figure in white was visible through the glass and no one appeared. Suddenly a concerned official darted back in. Were Becker and his opponent Nicolas Kiefer brawling? Given their history it was possible.

Egos are grating in Deutschland tennis. Becker is not talking to Kiefer, the 21-year-old is sulking back and, to cap it all, Germany's Mr Tennis, Gerhard Weber, is seething about a sponsorship cock-up which led to Becker, the men's tennis overlord, insisting on switching last year's Davis Cup tie against Sweden from Halle to Hamburg at a cost to Germany's federation of pounds 650,000.

His reason was a shirt sponsorship deal which was fine until Nike, with whom Kiefer and Tommy Haas are contracted, pointed out clauses which stipulate no extraneous logos. The result: a pounds 110,000 deficit on the tie for the DTB plus the loss of pounds 540,000 Weber had promised to Halle. All of which is quite a giggle for those of us used to Teutonic sporting prowess, but you can take it for granted that more than a tennis match was at stake as these two were concerned. The two men are not bosom buddies.

The breach is unlikely to have been healed by yesterday's rout. Becker, three times the champion, is retiring soon after Wimbledon while Kiefer is the world No 18 and won the grass-court warm-up event at Halle. The young man ought to have given the old man a trashing, instead he got a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 lesson.

Becker roused is a fearsome sight even at the age of 31 and yesterday he was fully pumped up. You could tell that from a first set that was 44 minutes of shuddering intensity and power. Becker fancied the younger man's backhand, and positively drooled over his second serve. Time after time the ball was aimed at the weaker wing and Kiefer's attempts to run round it merely opened the other side of the court for a winner.

He was broken in the third game after five deuces, the decisive strike for the first set that drained the fight out of Kiefer. As the end approached he was even disturbed by pigeons flying above him during points, a sure sign the bird had flown.

At the end a cursory handshake was exchanged but not a word passed Becker's lips. He turned instead to communicate with waves to a crowd with whom he will be extending his relationship tomorrow.