As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we look back at the 50 champions who have left an indelible mark on this inimitable event.
As a redheaded, baby-faced 17-year-old, Boris Becker slammed his way to a startling and historic Wimbledon singles victory in 1985 to explode on the tennis scene and ignite his Hall of Fame career. He was the youngest-ever men’s champion when he beat Kevin Curren in the final, as well as the tournament’s first German winner.
Becker was a muscular and athletic player, throwing his 6-foot-2-inch, 180-pound frame around the court with abandon and behind a thunderous serve that anchored his attacking game. His signature serve earned him the nickname “Boom Boom.”
While the All England Club green grass was his favorite court, winning Wimbledon again in 1986 and 1989 and reaching four more finals, Becker found the champion’s circle at both the Australian Open (1991 and 1996) and the US Open (1989).
The 1989 US Open final was a showdown between No. 1-seeded Ivan Lendl, who was making his eighth consecutive appearance in the final at Flushing Meadows, and No. 2-seeded Becker, who was playing his first – and what turned out to be his only – final in New York.
Played out in 90-degree heat, starting in sunshine and then finishing under the stadium lights, the final was a bruising battle of iron-willed competitors. Becker prevailed, winning 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6, to become the first German man to win the Open. He closed out the match in true “Boom-Boom” fashion with a service winner and gushed afterwards, “This was the best moment in my tennis life right now.”
In all honesty, Becker was lucky to have reached the final.
In the second round against American journeyman Derrick Rostagno, Becker had mounted a miraculous comeback win. After losing the first two sets, Becker rallied to win the third. But in the fourth, Rostagno had two match points at 6-4 in the tiebreak. On the second match point, Becker cracked a running forehand that clipped the top of the net and jumped over Rostagno’s racquet onto the court for a winner. Becker won the next two points to take the tiebreak and the fifth set, 6-3, to win the four-hour-plus epic.
“I was almost done,” admitted Becker.
50 FACT: Becker made it back to the US Open final two more times during a three-year stint as Novak Djokovic’s coach. In 2015, Djokovic won the men’s singles title, but he lost in the final the following year.