NEW YORK — There’s a broken heart for every light on Broadway, and this morning there are a few million more.
Bye-bye, Boris Becker.
See ya next year, when you’re old enough to drink.
Yes, meine kinder, it’s sad but true — Boom Boom went bust bust, as Boom Booms will do.
It happened here at the U.S. Open, just one round before the West German’s much-anticipated showdown with John McEnroe — the No. 1 player in the world
— which CBS had planned to televise Wednesday night in glorious prime time.
That thud you heard was the CBS guys jumping out the window.
But then, everyone this side of Stockholm was down in the dumps Monday night. After all, Boris was the rookie sensation, this year’s model of teenage tenacity. Only 17, a Wimbledon champion, the reason for the speedy heartbeat of thousands of adolescent girls stationed outside the locker room.
Tall, blond, good-humored, Becker has a serve that’ll shave your head and a forehand that violates several highway laws. But, of course, all that is when he’s sharp.
He came out flat Monday against Sweden’s Joakim Nystrom, lost his match in four sets, and it was auf Wiedersehen U.S. Open, hello again, mortality.
That splash you heard was the ticket scalpers jumping into the Hudson River.Stories we’ll never read
When they finally sit down and analyze this match, they’ll discover it was pretty darn good tennis, once Becker realized he was on a court. Unfortunately, by that time he was losing, two sets to zero.
And the press box — full of journalists who had all these wonderful words prepared for a Becker/McEnroe confrontation — was in the middle of a collective heart attack.
“This isn’t happening,” moaned one columnist.
“No, it isn’t,” said another.
“No, definitely not,” said a third.
That crash you heard was an Olivetti typewriter going through the stadium window.
Alas, it didn’t help. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men — and all the hungry sports writers of America combined — couldn’t put Boris together again.
“I was not on the court,” he would say later, meaning he might as well not have been. Nystrom clobbered Becker, 6-3, in the first set, 6-4 in the second. Becker’s serve was broken one game into the match. His heart went a few hours later.
The whiz kid just didn’t have it. Who knows why? His shots went long, wide, high, soft, into the net — just about anywhere he didn’t want them. At one point in the late going, he sort of semi-circled the court aimlessly, flicking away the sting of tears from his eyes.
I figured right about then he knew he wouldn’t see another miracle. And he didn’t.
Oh, he stayed the execution a half-dozen times, diving for balls, skinning his knees, figuring maybe if he drew first blood on himself he could do it next to Nystrom.
Uh-uh. Nystrom came back from 40-0 in that last game and put it away with a final shot that lofted high and long and landed on the baseline as Becker merely stared at it, frozen, figuring it was out.
It was in.
That whining you heard was the International Boris Becker Fan Club. They should stop pretty soon.
The spotlight is unforgiving
Lost in the Becker Blues is the fact that Nystrom had some pretty strong motivation for knocking off the West German heartthrob.
Back at Wimbledon, Nystrom blew two match points against Becker and lost their third-round battle in five sets. The kid went on to win it all. Nystrom went home.
This time, it’s young Boris who’s the not-ready-for-prime- time player. And maybe it’s for the best.
Let’s face it. Seventeen is pretty young to be under the world’s spotlight. The biggest worry for most kids Becker’s age is how to keep the Clearasil from showing.
And while most of us had all but handed over a four-round bye to the kid, it simply doesn’t work that way.
So the Wimbledon Whiz becomes the Flushing Fizz. That crack you heard was a million hearts breaking, as a million new lights fired up on Broadway.
It happens to the best of us. In some circles, they call it growing up.
Bye-bye, Boris Becker.
You will be back.