Boris Becker exclusive: Stefan Edberg was my toughest rival

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Boris Becker told GiveMeSport that the six-times Grand Slam Champion, Stefan Edberg, was his toughest rival and that losing to him in five sets in the 1990 final, was the one he regrets the most.

Second round loss

In 1987 the German was aiming for a hat-trick of wins at SW19. His preparation was perfect when he reclaimed the title at Queens, however his domination came to an abrupt halt when he lost to the unheralded Australian, Peter Doohan, in round two of the Championships.

The tennis world was stunned, while the media and critics sharpened their knives, however a remarkably calm and mature Becker simply responded: "nobody died, I simply lost a tennis match."

Edberg - Becker rivalry

The following year saw the rivalry between Becker and Edberg take centre stage as they went on to appear in the next three consecutive Wimbledon finals.

During their professional careers the pair met on 35 occasions, the German dominating the head to head battle 25-10, however Edberg came out ontop in three of their four Grand Slam confrontations.

In 1988, Becker had a phenomenal year, winning seven professional titles, but the one he really wanted back, Wimbledon, eluded him despite getting so close in the final.

Becker was the overwhelming favourite coming into the final after defeating Edberg in nine of their first 13 meetings, including the final at Queens barely 3 weeks previous, and after going a set up it appeared the German was on his way to a historic third title.

However the Swede got himself back into the match to eventually win in four sets and deny the German his third title in fours years.

Becker recalled: "In 1988 I felt I was the favourite having won before, but Stefan wouldn't be Stefan without finding a solution."

"He is the toughest rival I have had in my career, one of the nicest guys you could meet in the locker-room and a great friend of mine today, but a real difficult guy on the court to play. He was such a professional and kept his emotions in check."

"Whenever you gave him a chance he would take it and in 1988 I left the door open and he walked through."

Sweet revenge

In 1989 it was sweet revenge for the German after battling past Lendl in a five set semi-final thriller and then rolling over Edberg in straight sets to claim his third and final Wimbledon title.

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By Becker's own admission, 1989 was his best year which saw him win two Grand Slams and three other professional titles.

"1989 was my best tennis year. I reached number one and won the US Open. I felt that from 1989-1991 were my best tennis years."

Becker supreme in 1989

Sadly 1989 was the last time Becker tasted success at SW19, although he did go on to three further finals, losing in 1990 in five sets to Edberg, in 1991 to compatriot Michael Stich and then in 1994 to Pete Sampras.

His epic five set loss in the 1990 final against Edberg when he battled back from two sets down, is by his own admission the one that hurts the most: "Of all the seven Wimbledon finals that I have been in that is the one I regret the most."

Despite never winning Wimbledon after 1989, the German did go on to win a further 23 professional titles, including two Australian Open Grand Slams, establishing him as one of the true greats in the history of the sport.

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