MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, JAN. 25 -- Patrick McEnroe pestered Boris Becker worse than the flies that flitted incessantly around center court during the Australian Open semifinals. But McEnroe, the No. 114-ranked player taking on No. 2, went out 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 today as Becker unleashed 23 aces and a barrage of volleys.
"I had you guys going for a while out there today," McEnroe said with a wink at his news conference.
Did he think he had Becker going?
"Yeah, I thought I did," he said. "He was obviously a little upset about the second set. He seemed a little frustrated and I felt like what I was doing was working. But he started to pick up his game. That's why he is the great player he is."
Becker has a shot to be ranked No. 1 for the first time in his career if he wins Sunday's final against two-time defending champion Ivan Lendl, a 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 semifinal winner over No. 1 Stefan Edberg.
Edberg served for the match twice in the 10th game of the fourth set. But he missed a backhand volley on the first match point, double faulted on the next one and tumbled out of the tournament with a total of 11 double faults.
Becker-Lendl or Becker-Edberg were predictable final match-ups, but 24-year-old Patrick McEnroe, better known as John's kid brother and a decent doubles player, brought life to this Grand Slam.
A lot more life than Becker might have liked.
He buzzed Becker with volleys and stunned him with backhands. He took Becker's best serves and swatted them in his face. Flustered by this extraordinary attack, Becker admitted, "I lost my mind a little bit." He also lost the first set, collapsing 7-2 in the tiebreaker.
"Calm down, calm down," Becker said he told himself as he hid under a towel between sets. "I was nervous. I was tight. I just had to calm down and play each point. All of a sudden, I served very, very well. I served great, the best match I have served for a long time."
Still, McEnroe, who likely will move up some 50 places in the ATP rankings next week, established himself as a gutsy, formidable player.
Though he lacked the power of Becker -- three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier at 6 feet 3, 190 pounds -- McEnroe impressed with quickness, sharply angled ground strokes, and a deft touch at the net reminiscent of his brother.
"He plays with a very quick hand, and that's why I stayed back more and tried to rally with him a little bit," Becker said. "I think everybody saw today that he can play great tennis and he has a great arm. He has a good eye, takes the ball early. He has a good feel for the ball, and can beat many, many guys, in my opinion, in the next couple of months if he keeps up this level of play."
McEnroe shook off a break in the second game of the match, broke Becker for 3-2, then stayed with him until the tiebreaker. McEnroe took a 3-1 lead in the tiebreaker on Becker's double fault, then won the final four points on a service winner, an ace, and two forehand winners.
They stayed on serve in the second set to 4-4. Becker then broke on McEnroe's backhand into the net, and held at love with three aces. Becker's serves "almost knocked me over a couple of times," McEnroe said.
Becker dominated the third set and won seven straight games through to 3-0 in the fourth set. But McEnroe showed resilience, and broke Becker to 4-3. After each held, with Becker up 5-4, McEnroe saved one match point to 30-40 with a volley, then netted a volley for the final point.
Someone asked McEnroe, who plays the men's doubles final Saturday with David Wheaton vs. Scott Davis and David Pate, to sum up his run here, offering such choices as unbelievable, extraordinary or wonderful. McEnroe rejected them all.
"Fully expected," he deadpanned.