On this day: Boris Becker edges John McEnroe in Davis Cup marathon


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On this day: Boris Becker edges John McEnroe in Davis Cup marathon

On this day 42 years ago, Hartford Civic Centre in Hartford, Connecticut, served as the venue of the Davis Cup Relegation Play-Off tie between the United States and Germany, turning out to be a memorable one! Back in March, both teams had suffered the first-round loss in the World Group against Paraguay and Spain respectively, both on clay, and instead in the quarter-final, they had to play in the Relegation round to determine which country would remain in the World Group.

After three five-setters, Germany prevailed 3-2, led by the 19-year-old Boris Becker who took down both John McEnroe and Tim Mayotte in five sets to write history, sending the USA to the zonal competition for the first time, halting them from fighting for the Davis Cup title in 1988!

The second rubber between Becker and McEnroe developed into something special, with the German toppling the more experienced rival 4-6, 15-13, 8-10, 6-2, 6-2 in six hours and 21 minutes to give Germany a massive 2-0 lead on Friday.

It was the first competitive match for McEnroe since the first-round exit at Roland Garros two months earlier while Becker traveled to the States a month after a shocking second-round loss at Wimbledon to Peter Doohan, being the two-time champion there!

Carried by a partisan crowd of almost 12000, John turned the clock around to deliver his best tennis, known as one of the best players in the world on the fast indoor surface. John claimed the first set with a break at love in game ten, followed by a huge set number two that lasted two hours and 35 minutes alone!

John wasted an enormous opportunity in the 20th game, leading 10-9 and having an easy backhand volley that would have given him three set points, missing it and allowing Becker to make a hold and prolong the set, avoiding two sets to love deficit.

Next time when he served, Becker had to dig deep even stronger, fending off five set points in game 22 before he finally broke John's serve at 13-13 when the American netted an easy smash. A red-haired German brought the set home in the next game, firing a forehand winner to steal the set 15-13 in what was one of the turning points of the encounter.

The third set also went to the distance, with Boris failing to convert a lot of break chances, paying the price in the end after losing serve at 8-9 to push McEnroe two sets to one in front. With no room for mistakes in the rest of the clash, Becker started all over from set number four, taking full advantage of the 20-minute break between the sets to recover his mind and start hitting with stronger pace.

That long break after the third set took away all the momentum from the American who was unable to carry on in the same rhythm, suffering two breaks in sets four and five each to hand the win to the youngster. Boris earned the match point with a backhand return winner in the eighth game of the deciding set, converting it with a volley winner at the net for a huge celebration and the pivotal point of the entire tie.

Overall, Becker won 234 points against 210 for John, winning his service games more easily and having to serve 204 times while McEnroe played 240 points in his games. The German won 77% of the points on his first serve and 49% on the second, with the American who couldn't match those numbers, especially in the final two sets, taking 71% of the points on the first and only 42% on the second serve.

The German had 27 break chances, 13 in the second set alone, converting nine in comparison to six breaks from John who had 17 opportunities in the return games. Boris had the edge in the winners segment, with 74-50 (John had more service winners, though), including 21 return winners.

The younger player opted to stay behind and most of his direct points came from groundstrokes (27 from forehand and backhand each), outplaying one of the best indoor players of the previous decade in sets four and five to keep his country in front ahead of the remaining rubbers.