How Boris Becker’s tongue unwittingly gave Andre Agassi an incredible advantage which he exploited to win Wimbledon in 1992


Andre Agassi and Boris Becker were among the two most recognizable faces of tennis in the 1980s and 1990s.

The two shared a rivalry which saw them meet five times in Grand Slam semi-finals and another quarter-final.

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Agassi got the better of Becker for most of his career

It produced some glorious matches, but was somewhat skewed in favor of American Agassi.

He has won 10 of their 14 encounters, having been beaten in their first three encounters by Becker.

Becker was one of Agassi’s casualties at Wimbledon in 1992 where he won his first Grand Slam title.

And the secret of its success? It was something remarkably simple.

“Boris Becker who beat [me] the first three times we played because his serve was something the game had never seen before,” Agassi said in an interview with The Players Tribune’s Unscripted.

“Well, I watched tape after tape of him and stood through the net three times and started to realize he had this weird tick with his tongue.


Becker had no idea Agassi could read his serve at will

AFP

Becker had no idea Agassi could read his serve at will

“I’m not kidding, he would go into his rocking motion, his same routine and just as he was about to throw the ball he would stick his tongue out.

“And it would either be right in the middle of his lip or in the left corner of his lip.

“If he serves in the court of the devils and he put his tongue in the middle of his lip, he served either in the middle or in the body. But if he put it aside, he was going to serve well.

Agassi has exploited this unusual tick well and hasn’t let the Becker he knows speak, losing just once in their last 11 encounters.

“The hardest part wasn’t doing his service – it wasn’t letting him know I knew,” he recalled. “I had to resist the temptation to read his serve for most of the match and choose when I was going to use that information on any given point to execute a shot that would open the game for me.”

Agassi beat Becker on his way to the Wimbledon title in 1992

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Agassi beat Becker on his way to the Wimbledon title in 1992

It was only after the retirement of Agassi where he yielded to Becker that he knew how to read his service.

“We went out and drank a pint of beer together [at Oktoberfest]and I couldn’t help but say, “By the way, did you know you used to do that and give your serve?”

“He almost fell out of his chair. He said: “I used to come home all the time and tell my wife, it’s like he read my mind.”

“He said, ‘I didn’t know you were just reading my language. “”

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