Boris Becker proved today -- if any proof still were necessary -- that his victory at Wimbledon was no fluke. Playing in chilly weather, he put on a show of tennis that humiliated the young and talented Aaron Krickstein and brought West Germany its first Davis Cup victory over the United States.
In a 99-minute match on clay, Becker, 17, served 10 aces, had eight service breaks, won 25 of 31 points at the net and hit some eye-opening passing shots for a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Krickstein, one of the world's better clay court players.
"It was awesome," U.S. team captain Arthur Ashe said. "This proves that Becker can play on any surface. Aaron played as well as he could, but Becker just kicked his butt."
The victory eliminated the United States from this year's cup playoffs and advanced the West Germans, who won the series by 3-2, to the group semifinals against Czechoslovakia. The U.S. team won its second playoff point in the day's first match when Eliot Teltscher eked out a five-set victory over Hansjorg Schwaier, 6-4, 2-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
The result of the three-day, five-match series probably would have been different if Ashe could have used John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, but neither would sign a required pledge of good conduct.
"I have to put together the best team I can put together," Ashe said. "In the singles, if you take McEnroe and Connors out, we're dodgy everywhere. That's all there is to it."
Even the best U.S. players would have had trouble with Becker this weekend. Playing in Germany for the first time since Wimbledon and isolated between matches by the pressure of the country's sudden mania for him, Becker nevertheless seemed to thrive.
His manager, Ion Tiriac, said he had never seen him play better on clay. Becker concurred. "I played one of my best matches ever," he said. "That was very important for me, that I would play that well under pressure."
The power hitter showed a lack of polish at times. His serve occasionally was erratic -- he had more than one back-to-back double fault -- and he recorded 16 unforced errors on his backhand, repeating a problem from his play in a doubles match the West Germans lost Saturday.
Nevertheless, Becker showed great strength combined with speed, court sense and a champion's tenacity. He anticipated Krickstein's shots from all areas of the court and took advantage of short returns of his serve by hitting winning forehands down the line or into the backhand corner.
Becker also showed versatility, winning many points with drop shots, particularly off his backhand. "I always thought I had good control," he said. "If you make (Krickstein) move, he doesn't know exactly what to do."
Krickstein broke Becker's serve once, in the third set when Becker missed two easy forehand shots in a seeming lapse of concentration. But Becker won all four of the other break points he allowed, and exploited any lead he gained on his opponent's serve. Only in one of nine games during the match could Krickstein hold his serve after Becker had reached break point.
In view of such a performance, even a crowd that was boisterous at the beginning became hushed. Krickstein won sympathetic applause the few times he managed to escape one of Becker's putaway shots. Later, when their young victor stood at center court with his arms raised, many fans called out their thanks to him.
Becker still is charmingly unaccustomed to the blossoming of his game. Only five months ago, he was ranked 64th in the world and lost his second Davis Cup match to Sergio Casals, Spain's second singles player.
He remembers: "Three or four months ago, I never thought about winning Wimbledon or defeating the United States in Davis Cup." Then, a wry smile. "Things are going pretty fast for me, I can tell you that."
Becker's honor of clinching the series was nearly stolen by the inconspicuous Schwaier, who arguably provided West Germany's real margin of victory Friday with an upset defeat of Krickstein in five sets.
Today, Schwaier came close to repeating his feat against Teltscher in a match that took nearly six hours to complete after three rain delays.