London: The kings of Queens are set to return.
Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, who ruled the tennis lawns in the late eighties and early nineties, will come face to face once again on Sunday to play an exhibition match commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Queen’s Club grass court event here.
And years after his retirement, Edberg is still as keen to renew his rivalry with the German legend.
“Even if it’s fun, just an exhibition, I want to beat Boris,” he was quoted as saying in the Sunday Times.
“That’s just the way it is. It will be the same for him. It will bring back some memories for us, hopefully for the people too,” he said.
The rivalry between the two players, who between them hold five Wimbledon singles titles, has been legendary. Becker made history when he won his first crown in 1985 at the age of 17 and won his second in ’86.
Australian Pat Cash brought a brief halt to Becker’s dominance at Wimbledon in ’87 but then followed a saga in which the German and the Swede met in three consecutive finals — Edberg emerging the winner twice, in ’88 and ’90, and Becker once, in ’89.
Edberg and Becker had keenly contested against each other at the junior level, and carried on their battles at the other Grand Slams too.
Over all, Becker and Edberg have played each other 35 times and the former holds the upper hand 25-10. But the Swede held the No. 1 position for 72 weeks, 60 more than what Becker managed.
Edberg acknowledged Becker brought the best out of him. “Boris has been very good for my tennis and I hope I have been good for his. We have challenged each other. He won the Queen’s and then Wimbledon, and it made me realise I could do that too because we had already played together in the juniors.
“In ’83 we played the first round of junior Wimbledon... I don’t think either of us thought it would be the start of something. All I remember was that he had a big serve,” Edberg said. Edberg was aware of the place in history the two players enjoyed.
“I would not want to change places with Boris, not for a second. There had not been a German tennis player for years and then this big star comes from nowhere, from a country hungry for success.
“His life changed in a second. I was lucky. Even today Boris is the big star, Mats (Wilander) and I are on a different level. So when I won my first Grand Slam it was almost expected. I know Boris’ tennis well enough, but we kept our distance once the rivalry began. He was in his corner, I was in mine.”
After their playing days, the lives of the two players had gone different ways. The German, once the blue-eyed boy of his nation, is constantly on the news, not always for the right reasons. On the other hand, Edberg leads a quiet life in Vaxjo in Sweden, where he runs a tennis project and a charitable foundation.