Wimbledon champion Boris Becker today delivered the overpowering tennis that his native Germany expected. But it was lesser-known Hans Schwaier who provided the thrills by bringing West Germany to the brink of defeating the United States in a Davis Cup quarterfinal.
Becker swept Eliot Teltscher of the United States, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, on a red clay court at Rotherbaum Club.
Then Schwaier played the best match of his short career and upset Aaron Krickstein in a see-saw, five-set thriller, 2-6, 6-1, 2-6, 6-1, 8-6.
The double triumph left West Germany within one victory of eliminating the United States, with three matches to play over the weekend. "I think that's the biggest advantage we have ever had over the U.S.," said Schwaier. "People will know about the other Germans now."
The United States beat West Germany in all six of their previous Davis Cup meetings, and would have been heavily favored here if not for the phenomenal rise of Becker and the absence of stars John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Following controversy over their behavior in the Cup finals last December, both declined to play rather than sign documents pledging good conduct.
Sensing an upset, West German fans bought up the 10,800 center-court seats for all the matches months ago and overwhelmed 17-year-old Becker with hero-worship after his arrival in Hamburg. "It was difficult for me," Becker said. "I can't go out on the street . . . I was living in my room and listening to the radio and couldn't do anything.
"The only place I could be alone the last few days was on the court," he said, grinning. "I was glad to be back."
His pleasure showed. Despite initial nervousness and troubles with his serve, Becker quickly took apart Teltscher with sharply angled ground strokes and a smashing volley. Teltscher lost his first two service games in each of the first two sets, and was unable to challenge even when Becker's mighty serve faltered.
In deference to the slow clay, Becker followed his serve into the net only once. But he hit 20 of his 39 winners from the net, and successfully drove Teltscher into the back court with passing shots. Though making only 56 percent of his first serves, he had seven aces.
Teltscher had picked Becker's volley as his weakness, but later said, "His approach shots are so good that it's hard to get past him. I just didn't play that well. I made a lot of errors."
Only in the last set was Teltscher, 26, able to play even with Becker to 3-3. After narrowly missing a volley to set up a break point on his serve, however, Teltscher lost a dispute with the court umpire, then dropped seven straight points.
Becker was jubilant, wiggling his hips in his suddenly famous fashion to the delight of the crowd. At one point, he even extended a congratulatory hand to Teltscher after he had reached a difficult volley.
"I was getting killed, and I wasn't in the mood for that," Teltscher said dryly. "I was in enough trouble as it was."
After the match, Becker bantered with reporters. "Hopefully, I'm the same Boris Becker," he said of the effects of his fame. Then, asked if a mark on his leg was dirt or blood, he answered: "Blood -- it makes me wild."
Anticipating a romp by Becker, the Americans had counted on winning both singles matches against Schwaier as well as Saturday's doubles. But 21-year-old Schwaier, ranked only 39th in the world, seemed invigorated by both the crowd and Becker's opening victory.
Taking full advantage of the clay and an intermittent drizzle, he played a slow, back court game for 3 1/2 hours.
Known for his powerful forehand, 23rd-ranked Krickstein repeatedly turned to drop shots on key points but couldn't put away the scrambling Schwaier. "That's my style, I have to stay at the base line and run down balls," said Schwaier. "I got tired, but Krickstein was more tired. He had to take risks and he didn't move that well."
Krickstein, playing on his 18th birthday, seemed to falter after a 10-minute break between the third and fourth sets. But he put on a dramatic surge in the fifth set after falling behind by 3-5.
Serving in the ninth game, Krickstein saved three match points, then held serve and broke Schwaier to even the set at 5-5. Krickstein won his own serve at love for 6-5. But Schwaier broke back in the 13th game.
"It was my biggest win because I played for Germany against the United States in Davis Cup," said Schwaier, instantly transformed from a controversial choice for the team to its hero. "I tried to fight and keep coming back, and finally I won."