WIMBLEDON, England — The guy from Australia wore a checkered headband. The guy from West Germany wore just his hair, lots of it, thick blond locks that bounced with every leaping backhand.
And the girls screamed.
You’ve heard of stodgy old Wimbledon, as stale as cigar smoke, as traditional as taxes? Here, suddenly, was a match oozing with adolescent charisma. Pat Cash, 23, young, rock star looks, the defending champion of this prestigious tournament — vs. Boris Becker, 20, young, TV sitcom looks, the former champion of this prestigious tournament. By rights, this should have been the final. It would have been more dramatic, but it was played Wednesday, the quarterfinals. Centre Court was packed. The players peeled off their warm-ups.
And the girls screamed.
Hey! It’s the Monsters of Thwock! Call Tiger Beat. Call 16 Magazine. Throw them on the cover, alongside George Michael and Patrick Swayze: WHO’S THE COOLEST? YOU BE THE JUDGE. Awesome. Excellent. Boom Boom vs. The Hunk.
Uh — Boom Boom won. Becker goes full-tilt to regain title
Actually, Boom Boom won big. Boom Boom won easy. Boom Boom (a.k.a. Becker) lived up to his name Wednesday with one rocket serve after another, with passing shots and drop shots, with slams that never could be returned. Returned? They were lucky to be found.
“How good were you today?” someone asked Becker after he defeated Cash, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, and advanced to the semifinals.
“Good enough, I guess,” he said, laughing. “I was a little . . . scared. I never play a defending champion here before.”
Never played a defending champion? Yeah. That’s because he was always the defending champion. In the three previous Wimbledons, Becker won the whole thing, won the whole thing — and was eliminated in the second round last year by a nobody named Peter Doohan.
“That changed my whole life,” he admitted.
And that is his motivation now. His rainbow. His Dulcinea. He wants the title back. “Wimbledon gave me all that I have, all the fame and everything,” Becker said. “It took me six months to get over losing it . . . and now I want to win even more.”
But wait. What about Cash? Surely you remember him — handsome Australian, Mel Gibson look-alike, big on headbands, throws them into the crowd. He won Wimbledon last year, then charged into the stands, found his dear, old Dad, and hugged him — all while the Duke and Duchess of Kent were waiting down on Centre Court.
Ah, Yes. Now you remember him. Color? He gave us color. Drama? He gave us drama. Dirty words?
Well. Let us take you to the second set Wednesday: Becker was leading, 4-1, and Cash came charging, hit a volley winner — and fell over the net.
Fell over the net? Yes. And Becker got so excited, he somersaulted over the net as well. Wheee. Are we having fun, or what? Now we had two guys on the wrong side. Becker was kidding. He offered his hand. Cash was serious. He offered his thoughts.
“What did he say?” someone asked Becker.
“I don’t think I should repeat it,” Becker said. “He taught me some new words in English.”
And the girls screamed. Cash wigs out after losing
But wait. Before you castigate Cash for being a poor sport, let us take you now to the post-game press conference — after Becker had humbled Cash in two hours and 17 minutes. Everyone figured the moody, broody Australian wouldn’t show, right? He had just lost his title.
But here he came, wearing a red punk-rock wig, all spikes and points. The kind that makes you look like Son of Porcupine.
“Well, I figured I couldn’t wear this as Wimbledon champion,” he said, taking a seat, “so I might as well wear it now.”
And there he sat. In his wig. Answering questions. He said Becker played well; he said he (Cash) missed his chances. He said there was pressure being the Wimbledon champion.
“Boris says you taught him some dirty words.”
Cash winced. “I didn’t say anything. Boris likes to talk about certain players and I just happen to be one of those players. He talks about me, about my private life, like we’re some kind of buddies. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
“How disappointed are you?” he was asked.
“Well, naturally, I’m not happy. But a certain famous tennis player just a few minutes ago told me, ‘Get it back.’ And that’s what I plan to do.”
Good for that. Becker goes on (we’ll deal with him in the days to come). But the most important thing to emerge from this spirited afternoon is this: new muscle, new spark, a fresh rivalry with what Wimbledon needs most of all
As the two heroes were meeting the press, a crowd was forming outside the tunnel. Dozens of teenage girls, maybe hundreds, with sweatshirts, necklaces and cameras.
This will be big. This will be awesome. This will be a rivalry of backhands and forehands and flying headbands. Tiger Beat: WHO’S THE HOTTEST? YOU BE THE JUDGE. Coming soon. Playing often.