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Becker's Serve Too Much for Noah : West German Wins Easily to Gain Final Against Edberg

February 22, 1987|LISA DILLMAN

INDIAN WELLS — After trying to return Boris Becker's first and second serves, trying to put his incredibly low service returns into play, and failing at both . . . this was more than enough for Yannick Noah.

Becker's 6-4, 6-2 victory over Noah in Saturday's semifinals of the Pilot Pen tennis tournament before a sellout crowd of 10,500 at Grand Champions Resort didn't leave him wanting to try again soon.

Afterward, someone asked Noah: "What would you do differently if you played him again?"

"No, please," Noah said, shaking his head. "That is not a good idea. No, please. Enough." A few reasons for Noah's feelings:

--Becker didn't lose a service game in their match. In fact, Noah didn't even reach break point against him.

--Becker won 27 points in 31 approaches to the net. Noah was 25 of 53.

--Becker, in this tournament, has lost service only twice. Not surprisingly, he hasn't dropped a set in four matches.

After Becker won the toss, he elected to receive Noah's serve. The decision turned out to be significant when Becker broke Noah in the opening game.

Said Becker: "With some players, I like to receive first. But I did it a couple of times before and I broke him a couple of times. It's more psychological, it's very important for him to hold his serve, especially at the beginning. I know it is and he knows it too. That's why he had a bit of tightness in the beginning."

Becker's opponent in today's best-of-five-set final, top-seeded Stefan Edberg, was equally convincing in his 6-1, 7-5 victory over Mats Wilander in the other semifinal.

It was Edberg's 15th straight victory, a winning streak that includes titles in the Australian Open and last week's tour stop in Memphis. Although he has defeated Wilander in their last two meetings, Edberg was concerned the slow-playing Stadium Court might favor his opponent.

"I don't think I had ever beat him outdoors," said Edberg, who also beat Wilander in straight sets last year in Stockholm.

However, they hadn't met outdoors since last summer. In addition to his winning streak, Edberg has much more confidence than he had last year. So, his comeback victory over Miloslav Mecir in the quarterfinals here is a good indication of improvement in that area.

Would Edberg have been able to come back against Mecir this time last year?

"No, I don't think so," said Edberg's coach, Tony Pickard.

Edberg, 21, always had the talent, which was evident when he won the junior Grand Slam and the 1984 Olympic title when it was an exhibition sport. His confidence was the question mark. One could always tell when Edberg was losing by observing his body language.

Now, when he loses a few games, Edberg doesn't lose heart.

"I think he plays better when he's behind now," Wilander said. "He's always been able to play well when he's been ahead. But now, I think he's stronger when he's down, and he's started to play better. In the important stages of the match, he plays much better because of confidence. He hasn't lost a match in a long time."

Edberg said the last time he lost was to Becker in the semifinals of the Masters. That was Becker's sixth straight career victory over Edberg after the Swedish player had won their first two meetings.

But with the long winning streak and his dominating performance against Jimmy Connors in last week's Memphis final--Connors won just four points off Edberg's serve before defaulting with a knee injury--this would appear to be Edberg's best opportunity to defeat Becker in quite some time.

"It's always hard to beat Boris," Edberg said. "But it's not impossible. I'll just have to see how I can do."

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