Peter Doohan, 56, a giant slayer at Wimbledon 30 years ago

John Redman/Associated Press/file

Mr. Doohan earned the nickname ‘‘the Becker Wrecker’’ by stunning the defending champion, Boris Becker, in 1987.

Globe staff and wire services 

SYDNEY — After he eliminated the top-seeded player at Wimbledon 30 years ago, Peter Doohan said he was ‘‘in a state of disbelief.’’

He wasn’t the only one.


Mr. Doohan, then 26, was ranked No. 70 and hadn’t won a Wimbledon match until he stumbled past 123rd-ranked Alex Antonitsch in the first round in 1987. But he earned the nickname ‘‘the Becker Wrecker’’ by stunning the defending champion, Boris Becker, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

His victory was considered one of the biggest upsets in the storied tournament’s history.

“I looked at the draw and saw Becker in the second round,” Mr. Doohan told the Globe in London that year. “I said to myself, ‘Another bad draw. Guess I’ll have to wait until next year.’ ’’

Mr. Doohan, who was diagnosed nine weeks ago with a particularly aggressive form of what is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, died Saturday, Tennis Australia said in a statement. He was 56.

An Australian who played at the University of Arkansas, Mr. Doohan advanced the fourth round at Wimbledon in 1987, his best run at the tournament.


At Arkansas, Mr. Doohan was an All-American and won an NCAA doubles title. As a pro, he reached No. 15 in doubles and won five titles.

But he will be best remembered for his victory over Becker at Wimbledon.

“He’s a win-or-lose player with his shots,” Becker said after the match. “He was magic the way he guessed my shots and returned my serve. I didn’t play my best, but he won it. He played perfect. I expected him to crack, and I win easy. He never cracked.”

Mr. Doohan knew the odds he faced that day were long.

“They tell me I was 500-1 against to win that match,” he said after the victory. “Understandable. I’m a good grass court player, but I learned at Queen’s [Wimbledon tuneup], where he beat me, 6-2, 6-4, that Boris is invincible on grass. I was wrong.”

Mr. Doohan coached in the United States after he retired, and returned to Australia in 2009, Tennis Australia said


He leaves his mother, two sons, and two sisters.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this obituary.