Boris Becker grabbed his first Australian Open title and leaped to No. 1 for the first time in his career as he overcame back spasms to beat Ivan Lendl with a diving, rolling net attack.
Becker shied away from the net in the opening set while troubled by his back, but after a quick massage and some stretches midway through the second set he roared back to beat the two-time defending champion 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 on Sunday.Becker leaped in the air, heaved his racket high into the packed crowd of 15,000, then fled briefly from the court after his final forehand winner broke Lendl at 15-40 on a second match point.
The German returned moments later for the trophy presentation and was too emotional to express himself to the crowd.
"It's unbelievable for me at this moment," he said.
Becker, 23, won three Wimbledons and one U.S. Open, but this victory finally put him atop the men's ranking, displacing Stefan Edberg, who took the No. 1 spot from Lendl last summer.
Becker matched Lendl's nine aces, but won this match with his more dynamic play at the net, frolicking on the hard court as if it were Wimbledon's grass.
Lendl played superbly in the opening set, hammering winners from corner to corner while Becker struggled. Lendl finished off the set with his fourth ace, while Becker bellowed to himself in German about his poor play and kept flexing his back to loosen up.
Becker won just one of his five approaches to net in the first set and was still struggling early in the second set. After Lendl unleashed three more aces to hold to 2-2 in the second set, Becker stayed with him to hold to 3-2, then took off his shirt to get a courtside massage by a trainer.
Without taking an injury timeout, Becker recovered quickly and started playing more aggressively at the net.
Becker ventured to the net 14 times in the second set, winning five points in that fashion, and took the set by breaking Lendl with a lunging, stretching forehand volley on Lendl's forehand passing attempt.