Boris Becker looked around the All England club this afternoon and did not like what he saw. Relegated to an outside court against British wild-card entrant Miles Maclagan and facing three match points in the fourth set, the three-time Wimbledon champion was in danger of suffering a very embarrassing -- and short-lived -- comeback attempt.
"I've had a number of close matches, and today was as close as it could get," Becker said. "But there's a reason why I've won so many matches here, and I'm the kind of player -- especially at Wimbledon -- who's not going to give it to my opponent. He had to earn his victory, and he played incredibly well, but not good enough in the end."
Thrilling the overflow crowd and his pregnant wife, Barbara, Becker saved all three of Maclagan's match points on his way to a 5-7, 6-7 (9-7), 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 victory. The result marked his first appearance here since he lost to Pete Sampras in the 1997 quarterfinals, after which he announced he was through with the Grand Slams. He still played other tournaments, however, and about six months ago he decided to give Wimbledon one last shot.
His wife supported his change of heart, although she had a few uncomfortable moments today.
"Actually she was getting very excited toward the end of the fourth set, and I turned to her and told her to be quiet, calm down a little, because otherwise we might have a baby on the court," said Becker, who already has a 5-year-old son. "The more excited she gets, the earlier my second one is coming, so I was trying to make her more relaxed.
"She's due in the middle of August, but another five-setter like that, and I don't know."
Despite his British opponent, Becker had rousing support from the fans here, with one man holding up a sign reading "You will always be king, Boris." Hordes of people crowded into the stands around Court Two, while those who couldn't get a seat crowded a nearby hilltop to watch on a giant television monitor. Becker expressed some surprise with being placed on an outside court, especially the court known here as "the graveyard of champions."
"Maybe they were teasing me a bit with that," he said. "But Court Two is better than Three, I believe, and I came here to be part of Wimbledon, you know. Whether it's Court Two or Court Fourteen or preferably Centre Court, at the end it doesn't really matter."
No. 8 seed Todd Martin, a two-time semifinalist here, rallied to take a 6-7 (8-6), 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory over German Hendrik Dreekmann. . . .
Rockville's Paul Goldstein will play No. 16 seed Felix Mantilla in the second round Wednesday. . . . Australian Lleyton Hewitt said he turned down a ticket to cricket's World Cup -- which Australia won -- to practice with Andre Agassi on Sunday. "I couldn't say no to hitting with Andre Agassi, and I thought it was going to be a bit one-sided anyway," he said.