IT MAKES NO SENSE. It's a complete aberration that a little corner of a country with no real tennis past should realize such a glorious gift. On Sunday at Wimbledon—Vimbledon!—Steffi Graf, 20, of West Germany ended her 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 defeat of Martina Navratilova in the rain-delayed women's finals with an ace. Several hours later her countryman Boris Becker, 21, stood on the same patch of earth and dispatched the defending men's champion, Stefan Edberg, 6-0, 7-6, 6-4 with a mere service winner.
You would have to riffle through Wagnerian librettos to find an instance in which youth, strength and power, athleticism and Teutonism conspired with nature's own green grass so gloriously as they did at the All England (some misnomer that is) Lawn Tennis Club that day. You would have to go back to 1934. when England's Fred Perry and Dorothy Round won the titles, to find the last time a European nation furnished both the gentlemen's and ladies' champions in the same year. What's more, before Becker and Graf charged to their first All England titles, in 1985 and 1988, respectively. Germany had produced only one Wimbledon champion of either sex—Cilly Aussem in 1931.
Consider that Becker and Graf—he from Leiman, she from Bruhl—grew up not 10 minutes' drive from each other in the southwestern corner of the Federal Republic. They knew each other as kids, and they ran across each other at local tournaments. "I used to be the worst in the boys, and she was best in the girls." says Becker. "So when I was maybe nine and she was seven. I had to hit with her."
But there are no more like them back in Baden, the region they come from. "It may not happen here again, you know," Becker said after the Deutsches Doppel. "It depends more on me than her."
Truth be told, Becker had the easier time on Sunday. Edberg, a finalist at the French Open last month, had volleyed superbly to reach the final, but against Becker he muffed three chances at net in his first service game, and Becker ran off seven consecutive games. Clearly this wasn't to be Edberg's day. In the next set he had triple set point while serving at 6-5 but squandered five straight points, most of them on more sloppy volleys, and went on to lose the tiebreaker. "At that moment, 5-6, love-40 on grass, there's normally no way you can win the set." said Becker. "But if you think like that, you also don't win."
After Edberg double-faulted on break point at 4-4, in the third set, Becker served out the match. He flung his racket into the Centre Court crowd with a forehand sweep. A young lady from Birmingham grabbed it just about when the notorious Wimbledon skies opened up. "Ten minutes too late," said Edberg later.
The day before, Becker had needed a 76-minute rain delay in his semifinal with top-seeded Ivan Lendl to compose his usual flighty self. Down 0-3 in the third set after having split the first two, Becker headed for the locker room, "shattered," in the view of Lendl, who was playing magnificently in his continued quest to win the lone Grand Slam title that has eluded him. Only after two dubious line calls went against Lendl in the fourth set and Becker strung together 11 straight points in the fifth—when Lendl was again flogged by questionable officiating—did Becker secure the 7-5, 6-7, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory. "The rain was good for me," he said. "I could think again."
To win, Becker knows that he has to keep his head. Two years ago he had Mats Wilander on the ropes at the French Open when a ball bounded toward Jean-Paul Belmondo, who was seated in the front row. Becker had never met the French actor, and upon retrieving the ball, took the opportunity to make his acquaintance. He disintegrated thereafter.
"Emotionally you can compare him to [Ilie] Nastase," says Ion Tiriac, Becker's manager and mentor. "Like all artists, he has to bring something extra to his work. Germanic people are supposed to be stable and square, but you would think Boris was born in Naples. He will always live on his emotions."
As it was, Becker had several demifeuds with All England officialdom. After checking the schedule for his first-round match and finding himself down for neither Centre Court nor Court No. 1, he assumed he wasn't playing. In fact, he had been exiled to Court No. 2, the dread favorites' graveyard. That same day a security guard delayed Becker's entry to the grounds because Becker had forgotten to bring his player's pass with him. Soon enough Becker was criticizing the two-tiered locker-room facilities for the players, one for seeds, the other for lesser-ranked competitors. And during his second-round win over Richard Matuszewski, he donned a gaudy multicolored shirt in violation of the tournament's rule that players dress predominantly in white.