On this day, 43 years ago, Hartford Civic Centre in Hartford, Connecticut, welcomed the Davis Cup Relegation Play-Off tie between the United States and Germany that turned out to be a memorable one! In March, both teams had suffered the first-round loss in the World Group against Paraguay and Spain, respectively, and instead in the quarter-final, they had to play in the Relegation round to determine which country would keep the elite status.
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!
The second rubber between Becker and McEnroe evolved 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, earning a massive 2-0 lead for Germany 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 world's best players on the fast indoor surface. McEnroe claimed the first set with a break at love in game ten.
The second set lasted for 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 action, avoiding two sets to love deficit.
Next time when he served, Boris had to dig deep even harder, 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 sets to recover his mind and start hitting at a stronger pace.
That long break after the third set took all the momentum away from the American who was unable to carry on in the same rhythm, suffering two breaks in both sets four and five to hand the triumph 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, controlling his service games more easily and having to serve 204 times while McEnroe played 240 points behind his initial shot. The German won 77% of the points on his first serve and 49% on the second, while the American 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 (74-50), 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 to keep his country in front ahead of the remaining rubbers.