On this day: Ivan Lendl overpowers Boris Becker to defend Queen's crown


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On this day: Ivan Lendl overpowers Boris Becker to defend Queen's crown

Considered as one of the greatest players of the Open era, Ivan Lendl had won 94 ATP titles and almost the same number on clay, carpet and hard, playing on a high level both on outdoor and indoor courts. Lendl's place among the all-time great competitors could have been even higher if he had managed to perform better in Grand Slam finals (8-11) or to win a Major on grass that had constantly run away from him despite all the efforts to change his game and make it more "grass-friendly."

Between 1983-1990, Lendl played in no less than ten Grand Slam semi-finals on grass, seven of those at Wimbledon and another three in Australia, unable to take that last step and claim the title, losing in the title match at 1983 Australian Open to Mats Wilander and again in 1986 and 1987 at Wimbledon to Boris Becker and Pat Cash.

In the late 80s, Ivan had been at his zenith on the ATP Tour, throwing everything on that elusive Wimbledon title, competing in the semi-final for five consecutive years but with no luck, suffering losses against Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg in 1988, 1989 and 1990.

Lendl at least took the second prize, winning two Queen's titles in 1989 and 1990, playing on an excellent level at this prestigious event in the latter season, dropping 26 games in five encounter and only 11 against Wimbledon champions McEnroe and Becker, defending the title in style and confirming significant progress on the fastest surface over the years.

Between 1985-1993, Lendl and Becker had met 21 times and it was a close rivalry right from the start despite the fact Lendl came victorious in the first four clashes. Becker toppled the Czech in their first three meetings on grass at Wimbledon although it was a different story at Queen's 1990, with Ivan celebrating a 6-3, 6-2 triumph on June 17 to defend the title he lifted 12 months ago and make another significant step in Wimbledon assault.

Dominating with his first serve, Lendl fended off all five break points faced in the opening game of the match, playing better and better as the battle progressed to leave Boris miles behind, scoring four breaks and firing around 35 winners to have the upper hand all the time.

As was expected, the quickest exchanges up to four strokes decided the winner and Lendl had a massive advantage in those, serving well and using every opportunity on the return to keep Becker off-balance and impose his strokes.

Boris held at love in the opening game with a service winner and grabbed the first three points on Lendl's serve to create three break points. Facing an early setback and the worst possible start of the final, the Czech fired three winners to fend them off, repelling additional two for a crucial hold after an ace to level the score at 1-1.

From 40-0 up in the third game, Becker lost five straight points and suffered a break after a loose volley that sent Lendl ahead. The Czech landed an ace in game four for a hold at 15, hitting two unreturned serves in the sixth game to open a 4-2 gap.

Becker couldn't do much in the return games and Lendl brought another game home after an ace for a 5-3, leaving the German to serve to stay in the set. Despite some good holds after that break he experienced, Boris got broken again to hand the opener to Lendl 6-3 after a return winner from the more experienced player who was hoping for more of the same in set number two.

Lend certainly made a good start there, holding at 15 after four winners in the first game and breaking Becker a few minutes later for a considerable advantage. Hitting one winner after another, Ivan raced into a 3-0 lead and an ace in game five pushed him 4-1 up, with his initial shot standing as an unsolved riddle for the German on that day.

Boris finally did more damage on the return in game seven but couldn't create a break point, allowing Lendl to bring it home after two service winners. Three consecutive return winners in the eighth game sealed the deal for the Czech who delivered one of his most notable wins on grass in a career, doing absolutely everything right and leaving Becker far behind in every segment.

Both players struggled to find the first serve although we couldn't have noticed that in Lendl's games after that opening one, never losing serve and keeping the pressure on Becker with brilliant returns and more than 30 winners, outplaying the rival completely to become a two-time Queen's champion.