How did Becker get smoked by Wilander in their 1990 Australian Open SF?

buscemi

Hall of Fame
[Note: Thread title should read QF, not SF]

Some pertinent facts:

-1989 was arguably Becker's best year, with him winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.​
-Becker closed 1989 by winning Davis Cup for West Germany in December, smoking Wilander (6-2, 6-0, 6-2) and Edberg (6-2, 6-2, 6-4).​
-Immediately after the 1990 Australian Open, Becker won 13 straight matches, taking the title in Brussels and Stuttgart (beating Lendl, 6-2, 6-2 in the final) before losing to Agassi in the Indian Wells SF.​
-1990 overall was a pretty solid year for Becker. He finished #2, winning 5 titles and making the Wimbledon final (losing a 5 setter to Edberg) and the U.S. Open SF (losing a 4 setter to Agassi).​
-Becker followed up on 1990 by winning the 1991 Australian Open.​

Meanwhile,

-After reaching #1 in 1988, Wilander slumped badly in 1989, going 34-18 and finishing #18 in the world.​
-Wilander's slump worsened in 1990, going 22-14 and finishing #41 in the world.​
-Outside of the match in question, Wilander had 0 top 10 wins in 1989/1990.​
-Right after the match in question, Wilander got obliterated by Edberg, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in the Australian Open SF.​
-Outside of the match in question, Wilander was 2-0 against Becker on clay, but 0-7 against Becker off of clay.​
-As noted, one of those losses was the Davis Cup destruction in December 1989. Becker and Wilander also played in Stuttgart later in 1990, with Becker winning, 6-2, 7-5.​

That takes us to the match in question. Wilander smoked Becker, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. So, what happened to Boris? And how did Mats do it?

My guess is that (1) Becker came into the QF a little drained after needing to come back from two sets down to beat Mecir in the R16 (although it was 6-1, 6-1 in the final 2 sets); and (2) Becker couldn't take the huge heat in the SF. That's the main thing I remember about this QF: Wilander and Becker had maybe the best combined hat game in tennis history (with Mats wearing his the whole match/other matches and Becker wearing his for just part of the match).

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mats-wilander-of-sweden-during-the-australian-open-tennis-championships-held-in-melbourne.jpg


So, any other thoughts on what happened? Did Boris simply play a terrible match, or was there something tactical Mats did to turn the tables? Here's the match:

 
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jxs653

Professional
Maybe just one of the random defeats that can happen any time any where? Below is an exerpt from USOpen.org's article about his defeat to Brad Gilbert.
(https://www.usopen.org/en_US/news/a...grandstand_matches_young_vs_troicki_2015.html)

"Boris Becker came into Flushing Meadows in September 1987 as one of the legitimate favorites to put an end to Ivan Lendl’s dominance on the New York concrete. While two-time defending champion Lendl was in his prime ... it was 19-year-old German wunderkind Becker who was making some of the biggest waves on the tour.

... Becker’s struggles on the Grand Slam stage continued.

Upset by Aussie Wally Masur in the fourth round in Melbourne in January and by another Australian Peter Doohan in the second round at Wimbledon, Becker this time fell to Brad Gilbert, the man who rallied from a set down to beat him in the semifinals in Washington four weeks earlier."

Although downhill, Willander looks like more a legitimate opponent to lose to than those in the exerpt.

And below is another exerpt from a newpaper article reporting this match in question:
(https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-01-24-sp-669-story.html)

"Three-time champion Mats Wilander upset Boris Becker.

Becker, the No. 2 seed, lost to the eighth-ranked Wilander, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

The temperature on the rubber-bottomed hard courts was 115 degrees, down from the 140 degrees on Tuesday. But the dry, hot winds of up to 35 m.p.h. played havoc with baseline shots. Away from the court, which holds and reflects heat, the temperature reached 99 degrees.

Wilander whipped strong passing shots by the net-charging Becker, who grew increasingly frustrated and finally backed up to the baseline and began playing Wilander’s style."

If Wilander had won there three times there and Becker none, then maybe Wilander knew better how to win there. And also if he was ranked the eight at that time, that is not slouch either.

p.s. Oh, out of your two guesses I'd take the second, the heat. Those interesting hats is part of the story I guess.
 
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buscemi

Hall of Fame
Maybe just one of the random defeats that can happen any time any where? Below is an exerpt from USOpen.org's article about his defeat to Brad Gilbert.
(https://www.usopen.org/en_US/news/a...grandstand_matches_young_vs_troicki_2015.html)

"Boris Becker came into Flushing Meadows in September 1987 as one of the legitimate favorites to put an end to Ivan Lendl’s dominance on the New York concrete. While two-time defending champion Lendl was in his prime ... it was 19-year-old German wunderkind Becker who was making some of the biggest waves on the tour.

... Becker’s struggles on the Grand Slam stage continued.

Upset by Aussie Wally Masur in the fourth round in Melbourne in January and by another Australian Peter Doohan in the second round at Wimbledon, Becker this time fell to Brad Gilbert, the man who rallied from a set down to beat him in the semifinals in Washington four weeks earlier."

Although downhill, Willander looks like more a legitimate opponent to lose to than those in the exerpt.

And below is another exerpt from a newpaper article reporting this match in question:
(https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1990-01-24-sp-669-story.html)

"Three-time champion Mats Wilander upset Boris Becker.

Becker, the No. 2 seed, lost to the eighth-ranked Wilander, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

The temperature on the rubber-bottomed hard courts was 115 degrees, down from the 140 degrees on Tuesday. But the dry, hot winds of up to 35 m.p.h. played havoc with baseline shots. Away from the court, which holds and reflects heat, the temperature reached 99 degrees.

Wilander whipped strong passing shots by the net-charging Becker, who grew increasingly frustrated and finally backed up to the baseline and began playing Wilander’s style."

If Wilander had won there three times there and Becker none, then maybe Wilander knew better how to win there. And also if he was ranked the eight at that time, that is not slouch either.

p.s. Oh, out of your two guesses I'd take the second, the heat. Those interesting hats is part of the story I guess.
Yeah, Becker was prone to random defeats. What's curious about this one was that it came during a stretch of 10 Majors in which he only suffered one other defeat before the SF stage, and that was at the 1990 French Open (to Ivanisevic). And, in those SF, he always won at least a set:

1989 French Open: lost in 5 sets in SF to Edberg​
1989 Wimbledon: won​
1989 U.S. Open: won​
1990 Australian Open: lost in straight sets to Wilander in the QF​
1990 French Open: first round loss​
1990 Wimbledon: lost in 5 sets in the final to Edberg​
1990 U.S. Open: lost in 4 sets to Agassi in the SF​
1991 Australian Open: won​
1991 French Open: lost in 4 sets to Agassi in the SF​
1991 Wimbledon: lost in the final in straight sets to Stich​

So, the 1990 Australian Open QF definitely stands out to me, and I do think it's the heat that got to him.
 

Torben

Semi-Pro
I think that was one of Wilander’s best victories.

As you point out in your original post, the heat and wind played a role too. Lendl was wearing his infamous legionnaire’s hat to help with the heat during the tournament.

In the end, it was Wilander’s crafty tennis smarts that beat Becker. He hit precision passing shots and his ground game helped wear him down. He made it look effortless that day, even though we know it was far from that due to the elements.
 

heavyD

Semi-Pro
Wilander was one of the more cerebral players to play the game. He lacked big weapons in his game and relied on consistency and patience to frustrate and wear down his opponents. If he sensed an opportunity, weakness, or any advantage he would take it and use it relentlessly.
 

NicoMK

Hall of Fame
Full match is on YT, thanks to the uploader. If you've seen the match, the answer seems rather simple: Mats played pretty good while Boris just played average. Not bad but not excellent either.

It was VERY hot that day and Boris didn't like when it was very hot. It's one of the reasons why, in 1991, he went to Australia earlier than the previous years. The idea was to get more acclimated to the heat and it worked pretty well as he won the title in 1991.
Boris was also understandably pretty tired after his long 5 setters against Mecir and, looking back, he didn't have such a long break after winning the Davis Cup and an exhausting 1989 season. All in all, it could explain him playing not so great against Mats, at least from Boris' perspective.

On the other hand, Mats played a very solid game. He was not as good as two years before but he came close to the 1988 Wilander version that day, probably for the last time ever - typing this breaks my heart.

Who knows? He felt that he had to take revenge after his loss to Boris a few weeks earlier. Nice hat and Tacchini shirt, new Rossi - the FT 6.60 which he used for a few weeks - also did the trick. Mats loved playing in Australia too - while Boris not that much and Mats knew that.

In the semis, Edberg played one of his best matches in career against the "I don't care anymore" 1989 Mats Wilander back on court, before hurting himself in the last game of the match (bad luck).


After their quarterfinal, Boris said that he preferred losing to Mats rather than against any other player.

A few weeks later, Mats said in an interview that he reached the semis in Australia while he wasn't even pleased with his game (it was his words).

And that would be the last semis in a Slam for Mats, at only 26...
 

Torben

Semi-Pro
Wilander was one of the more cerebral players to play the game. He lacked big weapons in his game and relied on consistency and patience to frustrate and wear down his opponents. If he sensed an opportunity, weakness, or any advantage he would take it and use it relentlessly.
Yes very true.

It was always cat and mouse with Mats and that is why his match with Lendl at the 1988 US Open was so intriguing for me. A battle of guile and wits between them.
 

Torben

Semi-Pro
Full match is on YT, thanks to the uploader. If you've seen the match, the answer seems rather simple: Mats played pretty good while Boris just played average. Not bad but not excellent either.

It was VERY hot that day and Boris didn't like when it was very hot. It's one of the reasons why, in 1991, he went to Australia earlier than the previous years. The idea was to get more acclimated to the heat and it worked pretty well as he won the title in 1991.
Boris was also understandably pretty tired after his long 5 setters against Mecir and, looking back, he didn't have such a long break after winning the Davis Cup and an exhausting 1989 season. All in all, it could explain him playing not so great against Mats, at least from Boris' perspective.

On the other hand, Mats played a very solid game. He was not as good as two years before but he came close to the 1988 Wilander version that day, probably for the last time ever - typing this breaks my heart.

Who knows? He felt that he had to take revenge after his loss to Boris a few weeks earlier. Nice hat and Tacchini shirt, new Rossi - the FT 6.60 which he used for a few weeks... Mats loved playing in Australia too - while Boris not that much and Mats knew that.

Edberg played one of his best matches in career against the "I don't care anymore" 1989 Mats Wilander back on court, before hurting himself in the last game of the match (bad luck).


After their quarterfinal, Boris said that he preferred losing to Mats rather than against any other player.

A few weeks later, Mats said in an interview that he reached the semis in Australia while he wasn't even pleased with his game (it was his words).

And that would be the last semis in a Slam for Mats, at only 26...
Mats played a fantastic game at 3-4 in the second set and that really turned the match in his favour. Mats held serve the following game and then took the 2nd set with yet another break. A player didn't break Becker twice in a row very often as he was such a strong server.

Mats played very well.
 

NicoMK

Hall of Fame
Mats played a fantastic game at 3-4 in the second set and that really turned the match in his favour. Mats held serve the following game and then took the 2nd set with yet another break. A player didn't break Becker twice in a row very often as he was such a strong server.

Mats played very well.
Indeed.

I loved both players but Mats was always - and still is today, in a different manner as I grew older - my hero.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
I remember this win, but never saw the match. I'll have to watch it on YT. Becker could be prone to lose to a STEADY baseline...Agassi, Gilbert, Wilander all fit that model. People also underestimate Mats...a great ALL court player, who was incredibly crafty and could do a bit of everything. Also, in 90 they were still playing on the mush that was Rebound Ace....should have called it Rebound Rubber. It was pretty slow for a hard court, so that favored Mats. I was very excited when I heard that Mats won this match....then incredibly bummed when he then lost to Stefan in straight sets.
 

Torben

Semi-Pro
I remember this win, but never saw the match. I'll have to watch it on YT. Becker could be prone to lose to a STEADY baseline...Agassi, Gilbert, Wilander all fit that model. People also underestimate Mats...a great ALL court player, who was incredibly crafty and could do a bit of everything. Also, in 90 they were still playing on the mush that was Rebound Ace....should have called it Rebound Rubber. It was pretty slow for a hard court, so that favored Mats. I was very excited when I heard that Mats won this match....then incredibly bummed when he then lost to Stefan in straight sets.
Wilander and Becker’s history is rather cut and dry. Becker won 7 matches and Wilander 3 matches. The results are pretty much what you’d expect from these players in terms of the court surface. Wilander’s three wins all came at the Slams. He won twice at earlier French Opens and at the Australian Open we are talking about now. Becker won 4 of his matches on various indoor hard courts, 2 on a fast indoor carpet during past Davis Cups and 1 on an outdoor hard court in Cincinnati.

To be honest, I enjoyed the matches between Wilander, Becker, Edberg and Lendl as much as, or even more so than the more recent Big 4. That’s a topic for another day for sure.
 

tennistiger

Professional
Becker lost the match due to his problems with the sleeping pills that time. This, the Mecir match, the Wimbledon Final 90 and the KeyBiscayne 90 match against Fleurian you can say are the most famous losses because of that. Fleurian said he tried not to wake up Becker during the match! After the Mecir match his day/night rythm was totally mixed up. He had training late evening before the Wilander match next midday! With the result he simply was slow on the court and his mind not there, easy to comprehend when you see the match.
Afterwards and with todays knowledge it is easy to understand that both Becker and the pills lost many matches during that period.
 
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NicoMK

Hall of Fame
Becker lost the match due to his problems with the sleeping pills that time. This, the Mecir match, the Wimbledon Final 90 and the IndianWells 90 match against Fleurian you can say are the most famous losses because of that.
It could be possible, but are we sure he took pills before this match or is it just a pure supposition of yours?
 

tennistiger

Professional
It could be possible, but are we sure he took pills before this match or is it just a pure supposition of yours?
He said that he took pills during the whole night until morning. The effect from such pills is that the more often you usw them you only sleep a few hours and than you need to take a new one. So sleeping was often until midday which made a normal preperation impossible. I also took them for some years in the past. You are simply not fit although sleeping for 12 hours or more! You are not able to do your normal work! And how much must it affect a professional player...
 

mindmaster

New User
Shame that I haven't watch this match. I'm not sure how the heat has affected a match, but I believe it has less effect for mats. I have always enjoyed hot conditions and my biggest upsets has usually came on very hot days. I feel like it has no negative effects on my playing and running. I'm not sure if it's just a mental thing or what, but I believe Wilander is so smart player he will use hard conditions to his advantage and doesn't let it bother him so much. Hot conditions makes game into a more mental battle, which probably has suited wilander's game better as he was a more experienced player and he was quite a tactical genious with great mind control talent. I could imagine he can accept totally those conditions given each time.
 

fezer

Rookie
Becker Held break points for the double break in the 2nd set. If In remember correctly. If it was the heat that distracted Boris before, at that point it was certainly the wind that set in. Becker wasn't able to adjust. A series of ue cost him the advantage and the 2nd set. After that with the Mecir match in his bones, Boris was done.
No excuse for Boris! Just my observation. Becker was the heavy favorite before. He had demolshed Wilander in the Dc-final weeks before. But here he also was a victim of circumstance and Wilander won fair and square.
 
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