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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Becker Beats Chang, Ends Slam Drought

aCOMBINED REPORTS


MELBOURNE -- Michael Chang was surprised at how patiently Boris Becker played at the start of their Australian Open final.


That was an unusual tactic for the free-swinging Becker, and it got him off to a 4-0 lead on his way to a 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 triumph Sunday.


But over the long run, the German who burst on the scene by becoming the youngest Wimbledon champion ever at age 17 in 1985 has been patiently working his way back up after a five-year drought in Grand Slam tournaments.


His last Grand Slam victory had been in 1991, also in the Australian, when he climbed briefly to the No. 1 ranking. He slipped out of the top 10 in the rankings in 1993. In the Australian Open, he lost in the first round in 1993, skipped 1994 and lost in the first round again in 1995.


Attention here focused on who would emerge No. 1 -- Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi or Thomas Muster. Sampras was gone after three rounds and Muster after four. Agassi thus was able to reclaim the top ranking by reaching the semifinals. The final will not alter the rankings for either No. 4 Becker or No. 5 Chang.


Meanwhile, Chang was charging through to the final without losing a set -- even against Agassi. Becker was struggling, coming from behind in his first two rounds -- both five-set matches -- before starting to find his form.


On Sunday, Becker broke in the American's first two service games by setting up his points carefully, changing pace and drawing Chang into uncharacteristic errors.


"He was playing some pretty good patient tennis today, the kind of tennis you normally wouldn't see as much from Boris,'' Chang said.


Acrobatic volleys reminiscent of the young Boris also helped.


"It's a bit frustrating because you have an opportunity to put the ball away and Boris just happens to guess right on the shot and get his racket on it and play a great shot,'' Chang added.


"For me, it's a different position now than I was in five years ago," said Becker. "Now I am in the autumn of my career and I'm not taking anything for granted."


Becker said the drop-off in his play was perhaps inevitable.


"I think in a way it was a normal reaction to me afterwards that I didn't just have the fire any more to be a great tennis player," he said.


"I was still a good tennis player but then, about two and a half years ago, I changed, starting from my manager to my home. I changed my life completely with one goal of trying to get back to that top level.


"I sort of changed my whole game. I started from the serve, from the second serve, my volley, from my fitness to my groundstrokes. I think I became a complete player who doesn't rely only on his first serve but who changes his tactics sometimes,'' Becker added.


"Luckily, I found a wife [Barbara] who supported it very much ... When we met I was sort of dropping in the rankings a little bit. She always said, 'Please do it one more time for me because I have never seen you as a Grand Slam winner.'


"There's a good side and a bad side of getting old in this profession," he said.


"One good thing is that you actually stay a little bit cooler, a bit calmer when the pressure mounts because you realize after all it's a tennis match -- and that's all." ()


(For other results, see Scorecard.)