Cape Town - Exactly 30 years ago to the day, Kevin Curren played in
the 1985 Wimbledon men's singles final with the looming prospect of becoming
the first South African to win the most prized title in tennis.
Instead, despite being the outright favourite, he was
beaten 6-3, 6-7 (7/4), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 by a 17 year-old German upstart who
became the youngest Wimbledon champion and also the first to win the prized
title as an unseeded player.
Boris Becker went on to annex three Wimbledon titles
while reaching the final seven times.
Curren was left licking his wounds, with the consolation
that he remains to this day alongside Brian Norton, a finalist way back in
1921, the only South Africans to have reached the blue riband men's singles
final at Wimbledon.
In what Curren, now 57, describes as "the most
memorable, but also most disappointing day of my tennis career," the languid, but deceptively devastating
big-server from Durban believes the seeds of his defeat against Becker were
planted in his very first service game in the first set of the final.
Curren had been the sensation of Wimbledon up to that
point, having beaten world number one John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, who was not
that far behind in the rankings, and Stefan Edberg, a future Wimbledon
champion, without dropping his service once on Wimbledon's lightning-fast grass
"My service had been in the zone and had been
virtually unplayable," says Curren, "with the bookmakers consequently
making me an outright favourite for the
"But as fate would have it, I immediately dropped my
first service game of the tournament in the final and Boris went on to win the
"It jolted me and probably gave him the confidence
and belief that he could win the match - although, admittedly, he played
throughout with lethal poise, especially for someone so young."
Curren recalls that he fought back in what turned out to
be an uncompromising battle of big servers, won the second set via a tiebreaker
and broke service first in the third set to briefly go ahead for the only time
in the game.
"But nothing seemed to deter Boris," says
Curren. "He broke back almost immediately in the third set, won it in the
tiebreaker and then edged me out with a single break in the fourth and final
"In all, I dropped service three times in the game,
Boris only once."
Curren says that when he met McEnroe some time after the
game, the brash New Yorker proclaimed "you blew it, hey!"
"But" added Curren, "some time later after
McEnroe had barely beaten Becker in a ding-dong struggle, John came back to me
The kid is a helluva player, he said."
Today, Becker at 47 is back in the limelight as joint
coach of world number one Novak Djokovic after a stormy, at times controversial
career that earned him seven grand slam titles.
While Curren had a brief spell as captain of the South
African Davis Cup team after retiring as a player, he says he has no designs about
returning to tennis in a similar role to that which Becker now occupies.
"Perhaps it might have been attractive when I first
gave up playing," he added, "but now I've got other challenges in life
as a keen golfer, organising golf tournaments and other business
But he remains one of South Africa's most decorated
tennis players, having reached two grand slam singles finals - losing an
Australian Open final against Mats Wilander in addition to that against Becker
- while annexing one grand slam men's doubles title and three mixed doubles
He also reached a world ranking of fifth, bettered among
South Africans only by Eric Sturgess and Cliff Drysdale who both made it to
four in the world.
Curren won five ATP singles titles and his serve-and-volley
game made him a superb doubles player with 26 ATP men's doubles titles from 53
But despite all the glory days, that defeat against
"Boom Boom" Becker still rankles more than somewhat.