Tennis Channel To Televise McEnroe-Becker Queen's Club Clash
By Tennis Week
Boris Becker is planning a 20th anniversary celebration of his first Queen's Club title, but John McEnroe will try to crash the party. Becker will commemorate the 20th anniversary of his first stunning victory at the Stella Artois Championships by playing McEnroe on a grass court for the very first time in Sunday's Queen's Club clash of former top-ranked Wimbledon champions.
The Tennis Channel’s coverage of the one-set competition begins Sunday, June 12th at 2 p.m. Eastern.
The 37-year- old Becker, who burst onto the tennis scene behind one of the biggest serves of his time to win the 1985 Stella Artois as a 17-year-old and then Wimbledon three weeks later, will face McEnroe in a special challenge match after the pair have joined the BBC television team for the singles final.
Despite winning eight Stella Artois and six Wimbledon titles between them, Becker and McEnroe have never previously played each other on grass. The prospect of finally doing so is one that McEnroe, who lost to Becker in a U.S. Open exhibition three years ago, relishes.
"I always wished I could play Boris on grass, so it’s nice that I can get out there with him before it is too late!," McEnroe told senior circuit communication director David Law. "I’m looking forward to it quite a bit."
Becker and McEnroe are the only two players to have won the Stella Artois Championships four times since the inception of the event in 1979. McEnroe reached the final of the first six editions between 1979 and 1984, winning the event three times in a row between ’79 and ’81, and again in ’84. He followed both of his ’81 and ’84 victories with titles at Wimbledon. Becker lifted the Stella Artois trophy in ’85, ’87, ’88 and ‘96, and also won Wimbledon titles in ’85, ’86 and ’89.
"The times that I did well at Wimbledon always coincided with me doing well at the Stella Artois," said McEnroe. "I decided not to play in ’85, the year that Boris won, because I wanted to stay in the States and train on the grass courts there, but the grass courts in New York were a disaster! In hindsight, that was a mistake."
McEnroe’s loss was Becker’s gain, and the German rampaged through the draw, beating Pat Cash in the quarterfinals and Johan Kriek in the final to become the first player, other than McEnroe or Jimmy Connors, to lift the trophy.
McEnroe was not exactly blown away by Becker's achievement at the time. In their first official ATP meeting, the mercurial McEnroe admonished Becker for his behavior on court.
"I didn’t realize how good Boris was at the time," McEnroe admits. "The first time that I played Boris was in Milan in March that same year — 1985. He was complaining about calls, bitching and whining about everything, so I said to him during the match: 'You know, you’ve got to win something before you can start complaining.' Little did I know that he would win the Stella Artois and Wimbledon back-to-back just four months later! He was so physically mature and mentally tough for his age, and in retrospect I would have loved to have had the chance to play him during that period of time."
The man who many regard as one of the world's top tennis television analysts will get his chance on June 12th. For fans expecting a ‘hit-and-giggle’, McEnroe insists match play is no laughing matter.
"I don’t play any match that isn’t competitive, especially against Boris — I had a lousy record against him," McEnroe said. "I lost to him most of the time in my career and one of my goals has been to turn that around."
The McEnroe-Becker match caps The Tennis Channel’s live coverage at the Stella Artois Championships in London this weekend, where the men’s tennis tour has switched to grass courts after spring’s clay season. The network’s live coverage of four straight singles quarterfinals takes place Friday, June 10th, beginning at 8 a.m. Eastern time. Saturday, June 11th, offers both singles semifinal matches at 8:20 a.m. Eastern, before Sunday, June 12th, showcases this year’s Stella Artois championship at 9 a.m. Eastern.
For more information about the Stella Artois Championships, please visit the official Stella Artois web site.