McEnroe to play Becker at last

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The Independent Online

Given that the mainstream careers of John McEnroe and Boris Becker were put out to grass years ago, it may come as a surprise that the pair are preparing to play against each other on turf for the first time.

Given that the mainstream careers of John McEnroe and Boris Becker were put out to grass years ago, it may come as a surprise that the pair are preparing to play against each other on turf for the first time.

The match, to mark the 20th anniversary of Becker's victory at Queen's Club en route to becoming Wimbledon's youngest men's singles champion, aged 17, in 1985, will be a bonus on finals day at the Stella Artois tournament on 12 June.

As soon as they finish commentating on the final for BBC television, McEnroe, 46, and Becker, 37, will change into their tennis outfits and step on to the court.

Although they met 10 times on the international tour between 1985 and 1992 - Becker winning eight of the contests - they never duelled on grass. This is remarkable considering their respective records at Wimbledon, where they each won three singles titles, and at Queen's, where they were the only players to win the title four times.

"I always wished I could play Boris on grass," McEnroe said. "It's nice that I can get out there with him before it's too late."

In 1985 McEnroe decided to prepare for Wimbledon in New York instead of playing at Queen's. Becker won the Stella title, beating Johan Kriek in the final. Three weeks later, the young German celebrated his initial Wimbledon triumph.

"I didn't realise how good Boris was at the time," said McEnroe. "The first time I played him was in Milan in March that same year. He was complaining about calls, bitching and whining about everything, so I said to him: 'You know, you've got to win something before you can start complaining'. Little did I know.

"He was so physically mature and mentally tough for his age. I had a lousy record against him. I lost to him most of the time in my career."

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