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Becker And Edberg Look Ready For Another Run At Wimbledon

June 17, 1996

LONDON (AP) _ Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg are back on grass, cracking serves and crashing the net _ a sure sign Wimbledon is just days away.

The two old rivals, with parallel careers and five Wimbledon titles between them, look like threats to win Wimbledon again after playing a virtually even match Sunday that Becker won 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) in the final of the Queen’s grass-court tournament.

This is the most important warm-up for Wimbledon _ and Becker and Edberg played that way. Becker’s serve was on target, his backhand was sharp _ and only a player with Edberg’s savvy could have stayed with him.

The 28-year-old Becker has already won the Australian Open this season _ his sixth Grand Slam tournament title _ and missed the French Open with a thigh injury despite his best clay form in years. He looks primed for Wimbledon, where he was was runner-up last year to world No. 1 Pete Sampras, the three-time defending champion.

The victory was Becker’s eighth straight over Edberg and upped his career edge to 25-10.

Edberg, promising to retire after this season, wants to go out like the Edberg who also has won six Grand Slams tournament titles. The 30-year-old Swede, ranked 26th in the world, hasn’t reached the Wimbledon semifinals since 1993 and hasn’t won since 1990.

``I didn’t lose a set here all week against good grass-court players,″ Becker said. ``It’s a big boost of confidence to win at Queen’s and know I’m playing so well.″

The victory came 11 years after Becker won his first ATP Tour event _ also on grass at this West End London club.

``I can’t believe it’s been 11 years ago,″ said Becker. ``On grass I believe I have a chance against anybody. After 11 years of playing well on grass, I believe on a good day I can beat anybody.″

Becker winced at missing the French Open _ particularly because of the hard, fast courts in Paris _ but looked for a silver lining.

``I put in eight weeks of preparation for nothing,″ Becker said. ``I watched it (French Open) on TV, and seeing it was the quickest clay-court tournament in years made it very hard. But it made me more eager to win at Queen’s.″

Edberg was also looking for a good omen.

``In ’88, I lost to Becker in the final at Queen’s, then beat him in the Wimbledon final. That was a good omen. Hopefully it will repeat itself,″ said Edberg, who won Wimbledon in 1988 and ’90 in finals against Becker. In ’89 he lost a final to Becker.

Becker also won Wimbledon in 1985 and ’86.

``I’ve been playing some of the best tennis I’ve done for a long time,″ Edberg said. ``I told Boris at the net, `I hope to see you in two weeks.′ He said `No, you mean three weeks.′

``That would be a dream,″ Edberg added. ``It’s not that far away. If I keep doing the things I’ve done this week, at least I’ll be a threat at Wimbledon ... and hopefully I can play Boris in the finals.″

Wimbledon play begins June 24 with the men’s final on July 7.

Edberg dismissed suggestions he might change his mind about retiring.

``Once I’ve made a decision, I stick with it,″ Edberg said. ``I feel if I can play good tennis for the next couple of weeks and through the end of the year, that’s going to be a good way to go out.″

Edberg suggested Sampras, who withdrew from Queen’s after losing in the French Open, might lament not play Queen’s.

``It will hurt Pete,″ Edberg said. ``It will be more difficult for him to win. He must get some grass-court matches in now before Wimbledon, but he’s a good enough player to win anyway.″

Edberg and Becker differed over where clay-court specialist Thomas Muster should be seeded at Wimbledon. Muster reached the semifinals at Queen’s _ winning three straight matches _ before losing to Edberg. He now has five match victories this year on grass after never having won on the surface.

Edberg suggested Muster should be seeded third or fourth. Becker disagreed.

``I have my doubts whether Thomas Muster should be in the top four,″ Becker said. ``He’s never done well at Wimbledon and it would be unfair to seed him above Goran Ivanisevic. I’d seed him between five and eight.″

Muster, the world No. 2, said after Saturday’s loss he should be in the top four.

``I deserve to be seeded in the top four just as Pete Sampras deserves to be seeded No. 1 in the French Open,″ Muster said. ``If Wimbledon doesn’t seed by ranking, then we are better off having a different ranking for each surface.″

In another grass-court warmup event, American Richey Reneberg defeated Stephane Simian of France 6-4, 6-0 Sunday to capture the Heineken Open in Rosmalen, Netherlands. The match took just 59 minutes.

Spain’s Felix Mantilla captured a clay court tournament in Oporto, Portugal, winning his first ATP Tour title by downing sixth-seeded Hernan Gumy of Argentina 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-3.

In a women’s tournament, the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England, American Meredith McGrath was a surprising winner, defeating second-seeded Nathalie Tauziat of France 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in Sunday’s final. Earlier in the week, McGrath eliminated top-seeded Brenda Schultz McCarthy and No. 3 Natasha Zvereva.

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