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Becker's Wimbledon career has finally come to an end
German's 'last hurrah' cut short by Rafter in 3 sets

WIMBLEDON, England -- This time, it's really over for Boris Becker.

Becker's illustrious Wimbledon career ended Wednesday with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 loss on Centre Court to Australia's Patrick Rafter.Becker, who won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 1985, added two more titles in 1986 and 1989 and was runner-up four times.

He said two years ago after a defeat to Pete Sampras that he wouldn't be back. But the German changed his mind and returned this year for one last hurrah. He said Wednesday he was "100 percent" certain he would not play Wimbledon again.

"The last time I said 99 percent," Becker added.

After cursory handshakes with Rafter and the chair umpire, Becker packed his bag and bowed to the Royal Box for the last time. He then stopped, put down his bag and raised his arms and clapped to acknowledge a standing ovation.

"It was a nice way to say goodbye," he said.

Describing his 15-year relationship with Wimbledon, Becker said: "It was a great love affair -- like nowhere else in the world. It made me who am I today."

As play finally resumed after two days of rain, Venus Williams rallied to beat crowd favorite Anna Kournikova in three sets to reach the quarterfinals for the second straight year. The sixth-seeded American overpowered the No. 17 Kournikova 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, extending her career mastery over the Russian to 3-0.

Pete Sampras, seeking his sixth Wimbledon title in seven years, powered into the quarters by beating Canada's Daniel Nestor 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. Sampras is within three wins of his 12th Grand Slam championship.

In another key women's match, 18-year-old qualifier Alexandra Stevenson overcame fellow American Lisa Raymond, 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1.

In a duel between two of the biggest servers in the game, No. 7 Mark Philippoussis slammed 25 aces to beat Britain's Greg Rusedski, 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-1. Rusedski had 12 double faults and only nine aces.