WIMBLEDON, England — Did you hear?

Hear what?

Boris Becker cheats.

He cheats?

That’s what they say. Three matches in a row.

Three in a row? What did he do?

Well, the first match, against Javier Frana–

Who?

Javier Frana.

You sure you’re not talking World Cup?

No. Javier Frana. He’s a tennis player. In his match against Becker, Boris called for a toilet break and–

A toilet break?

That’s what they call it.

When my toilet breaks, I get a plumber.

Yes. Well. Boris called for a toilet break, and while he was there–

You mean in the bathroom?

Yes. While he was there, he had therapy administered.

That sounds severe. Had he tried prunes?

No, no. Physical therapy, for his body. His trainer, according to reports,
“gave him a stretch.”

I still think prunes would have been enough.

You don’t understand. It’s against the rules. Boris cheated. He was fined $1,000.

For getting a stretch in the toilet?

Absolutely.

I’m afraid to ask — what did they stretch?

They said he got a neck rub.

How long did it last?

Maybe 20 seconds.

That’s cheating?

Absolutely.

Hmmm. I see. What was his second offense? Time out for . . . what?

His second offense came against Andrei Medvedev.

Who?

Andrei Medvedev.

You’re sure you don’t mean the World Cup?

Medvedev and Becker were in the fifth set Tuesday, triple match point. Medvedev went to serve and–

Don’t tell me. Boris went to the toilet.

Worse. He called for time.

That’s it?

You shouldn’t do that in tennis. It breaks the server’s concentration.

Maybe Boris needed time.

It made Medvedev angry.

What happened when they resumed play?

Medvedev won the point.

If he won the point, what was he mad about?

He lost the next point. And the match. Later, he said Becker distracted him. He said, “If you’re good enough, you should win without cheating. Boris does this all the time.”

Hold it. In basketball, you can call time in the middle of a play. In football, the quarterback can call time just before the snap. Nobody complains. Opponents just laugh and say, “Ha-ha. You’re scared!”

This is tennis. It’s different.

I’ll say. What was the third offense? The phantom ‘out’ gesture

The third offense came in Becker’s match Wednesday against Christian Bergstrom.

Who?

Christian Bergstrom.

I gotta watch more tennis. Go on.

Bergstrom and Becker were in a first-set tiebreaker, set point. Bergstrom hit a smash. As Becker returned it, he raised his hand momentarily because he thought it was long.

Yeah? So?

Bergstrom hit the next shot out. He claimed Boris distracted him.

Because he raised his hand?

Of course.

Wait a minute. Baseball players stare down 90-m.p.h. fastballs while fans are doing the wave. Basketball players shoot free throws while opponents yell,
“Choke!” You’re saying tennis players can’t hit straight when an opponent raises his hand?

Well, Bergstrom complained loudly.

Who won the match?

Bergstrom lost in straight sets.

Sounds like he needed Boris to keep more than his hands down.

Funny, that’s what Becker said. He said, “Maybe the reason all these players speak out is because they lost. Nobody likes losing.”

This Becker kid makes a lot of sense.

But he cheats! The papers here say so!

Listen. Cheating is using a corked bat. Cheating is shaving a stroke off your golf score, or putting nails in your boxing glove. Cheating is entering a marathon a half-mile from the finish line.

Taking your time or getting a quick rub during a break shouldn’t be cheating. Golfers do the former, and even boxers do the latter. Besides, if tennis didn’t pamper its players with limos, Lear jets and press agents, maybe they’d toughen up a little. And people would like their sport more.

Hmmph. Is that all you have to say?

Just about. Now. If you’ll excuse me.

Where are you going?

To the bathroom. I need to stretch.

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