Remembering 17-year old Boris Becker's Wimbledon shock 35 years ago
Photo by Steve Powell via Getty Images

Heading into The Championships at the All England and Croquet Club in the summer of 1985, Boris Becker was a rank outsider, but the boy from Leimen ended it holding aloft the most prestigious trophy in tennis.

The Lead-Up

Becker was something of a tennis prodigy, having shown great promise as a youngster. By the time he turned professional in 1984, he was making headlines already for his aggressive style. He was under the tutelage of the Romanian duo of coach Gunther Bosch and manager Ion Tiriac

The teenager showed a glimpse of what was to come at the Queen's Club that year. With the care-free attitude of a player of his age, he stormed through to clinch the title. He defeated American Johan Kriek in straight sets to lift the title at Stella Artois Championships.

It meant he moved up to number 20 in the ATP Tour rankings, but would still be un-seeded at Wimbledon, as only the top 16 players were seeded back then.

A new way of playing.

There had been serve & volleyers before, but none the likes of Becker before, or indeed since and it endeared him to the crowds. His ability, or in fact his risk-taking to serve hard on both first and second serves shocked his opponents. It earned him the nickname "Boom Boom Becker." 

The way he advanced to the net, both while in the motion of serving or from returning a ground-stroke to go forward was lightning quick. The player on the other side of the net had barely finished completing their own shot, and Becker was in their face ready to volley.

Then while at net, it took something special to pass the blond-haired bomber. His diving volleys, and his knack of reaching seemingly impossible balls while up there, left fans in awe and the other players in disbelief.

Showing his steely determination

Becker's road to the final was anything but smooth, as he navigated several long and gruelling matches to advance. In the first round against Hank Pfister, he lost the first set 4-6 but stormed back to win the next three fairly comfortably to reach the second round.

The only match he won in straight sets was in the second round versus Matt Anger, with a 6-0-6-1-6-3 victory. In years thereafter Becker would make a number of references of five-set encounters and how it showed the "true warrior" in the game and in his next two rounds, he would display all of that spirit to the maximum.

In the third round, he faced off against the Swede Joakim Nystrom. As in the first match of the two-week extravaganza, he conceded the opening set 3-6. Arguably the turning point of the clash was the second set tie-breaker which Becker won. He claimed two of the next three sets, the fifth and final one by a 9-7 scoreline after breaking his opponent and then serving out the match.

In his first appearance at Wimbledon the previous year, Becker had to retire during his third-round match versus Bill Scanlon after he tore ligaments in his ankle. In his fourth-round match against the USA's Timothy Mayotte his ankles would again affect his performance.

Trailing by two sets to one, he turned his ankle and reportedly relayed to the umpire that he was about to retire hurt again. Fate would change his Wimbledon and his life entirely as his manager Tiriac ran onto the court and convinced him to continue. He would claim the next couple sets to win the match and advance to the Quarter-finals for the first time at a major.

With each passing round, it seemed that the stars were aligning as Becker grew more and more confident. However, now it was the nitty-gritty of the tournament where the creme usually rises to the top.

Well in 1985, the creme de la creme was Boris Becker.

He overcame both Henri Leconte and Anders Jarryd in four sets apiece at the quarter-final and semi-final stages. In the latter, he needed to show his patience and willingness to "wait it out" as the last four encounter was a stop and start affair after the infamous London weather intervened. 

The Final

Becker would meet South African Kevin Curren in the grand finale on the 7th of July 1985. Curren was 10 years Becker's senior, was the eighth seed and had overcame Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Conners in the previous rounds. Despite "Boom Boom's" remarkable run to the final, Curren was still seen as the favourite, both with fans and bookmakers.

However, this was Becker and he had defied the odds before and was basically playing with "house money" at that point.

Becker won the opening set 6-3 after a break of serve early on and with his serve & volley game on full display, he was thrilling the crowd. The second and third were close encounters, both decided by tie-breaks and both players winning a set each. 

Then the key moment of the final came in the very first game of the fourth and what turned out to be the last set. Becker broke Curren's serve and that was all he needed, as he held his serve for the remaining games and served at 5-4 for the championship.

He mustered up one of those booming serves, Curren failed to return it and history was made as Becker won the Wimbledon crown! At the realisation of what he had achieved, his legs shimmed, arms raised in the air and with the biggest smile of the boy with the youthful exuberance.

Game. Set. Match.

Becker would confirm his status as a top level player when he promptly defended his crown the next year.