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'An incredible ride'
Becker bids Wimbledon a final farewell
Posted: Wednesday June 30, 1999 04:09 PM
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Boris Becker bowed to the Royal Box. He raised his arms to acknowledge a standing ovation. He signed a few autographs, shook hands with referee Alan Mills, then ducked through the green door into the locker room.
For the last time.
Becker said farewell to Wimbledon on Wednesday -- and, this time, for good.
Two years ago, after a loss to Pete Sampras, Becker announced he had made his final appearance at the All England Club.
But he changed his mind and came back this year, in semi-retirement, for one last hurrah. Becker surprised even himself by charging into the final 16, but he was no match for Australia's second-seeded Patrick Rafter on Wednesday, losing 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
Was this the final goodbye?
"Oh yes, definitely," the 31-year-old German said. "Last time, I said 99 percent. Now I say 100 percent."
Becker has been associated with Wimbledon for 16 years. He reached the third round in his first appearance in 1984, then stunned the tennis world by winning the tournament as a 17-year-old in 1985. He retained his title in 1986, won it again in 1989 and was runner-up four times.
"It's been an incredible ride," he said. "I've won more matches here than anybody."
Becker became so fond of the grass at Wimbledon that he described Centre Court as his "living room." The crowds loved his dashing style and intimidating power game.
"It was a great love affair," Becker said. "It was like nowhere else in the world. The place was always very special to me. It made who I am today."
Becker overcame Britain's Miles Maclagan in the first round after saving three match points, then punished young German pretender Nicolas Kiefer in straight sets and dominated Australian teenage star Lleyton Hewitt, also in straight sets.
Against Rafter, however, Becker looked out of his league. His biggest weapon -- the serve -- let him down. He had 13 double faults, and his first serve percentage was below 50 ercent.
Rafter broke Becker eight times, including in the final game of the match when Becker hit a low backhand volley wide.
"I left my serve at home," he said. "I had not timing on my serve at all. Every time I served, it was a struggle. It was very unfortunate I was not able to give him and the crowd a better match for my last match.'
But Becker said he had no regrets about coming back.
"I couldn't believe the way I have been playing the last 10 days here," he said. "I didn't expect at all to be in the round of 16 playing Pat Rafter. But he outplayed me. He was a class better. I'm thankful I had a chance to come back and play decent tennis. Now it's time to do something else."
Becker and his wife, Barbara, are expecting their second child this summer. They have a 5-year-old son, Noah Gabriel.
Becker said he will remain involved in tennis in coaching, including as manager of Germany's Davis Cup team.
Asked what he will miss most about Wimbledon, Becker didn't hesitate.
"It's hard to compare any other feeling than going on Centre Court, especially if it's in a final," he said. "It's an experience where all the players will agree with me. It's one of a kind."
There is one thing, though, that Becker wishes he could change.
"What really bugs me all along is losing four finals," he said. "That's four too many. If you're in the final seven times and only come out three times as a winner, that's not a good percentage."
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