LONDON, JUNE 29
So sorry you canceled your European vacation and went backpacking in the Ozarks instead. Well, the weather at Wimbledon has been better than the Jersey shore's, and a terrorist hasn't been seen in London all week. And you'll be happy to hear that the British still have their priorities straight. Signs at The Championships advising spectators not to leave any luggage lying around, lest it contain bombs, are not nearly so large as the adjoining signs that admonish gentlemen not to remove their shirts.
Even without you and Da-Da McEnroe, the attendance records for a single day and for the whole first week were broken. The only real question was whether there would be more sunstruck fans lost to the heat of the day or seeded players to the heat of battle. More than 350 spectators had to be treated on Friday, when it hit 92. On the courts, 41% of the men's and women's seeds—13 of 32—were eliminated in the first two rounds, and well before the week was over, there had been enough additional bloodletting among the favorites to assure that, for the 10th consecutive year, an unseeded player would reach the men's semifinals.
The most prominent early departure was, of course, third-seeded Jimmy Connors, the American bellwether. For the first time in 15 trips to Wimbledon, the 33-year-old Connors fell in the opening round. The executioner was Robert Seguso, 23, of Sebring, Fla. Known as Goose and ranked No. 31 in the world, Seguso is primarily recognized as a doubles practitioner.
Connors gave neither an artful nor a graceful performance in what may well have been his Wimbledon valedictory. He was a day late getting round the court and a dollar short getting round with his swing. Although Seguso hardly possesses the ground arsenal to pin Connors back deep, Jimbo never ventured from the baseline. Nor could he contend with Seguso's first-rate service, which, especially in the tiebreakers, sealed Connors's fate, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6.
It was well past eight in the gloaming when Seguso lowered the final curtain. Connors hurried off the court without extending the traditional courtesy of awaiting his conqueror. Before leaving the club, he dismissed the defeat by saying Seguso had been "unconscious." When a British journalist politely wondered if this might not be the last hurrah, Connors launched into a sort of neo-Nix-on kick-around outburst.
"Why? D'ya wanna get me outta tennis?" Jimbo railed. "You don't know what you have until you lose it, and that's what you're feeling toward McEnroe right now. You're so quick to jump on him and call him every name in the book. Then when he doesn't come here, you miss him. Are you going to do the same with me?"
In fact, as the box-office figures and scalpers' prices indicate, John McEnroe, across the great water changing nappies, wasn't missed all that much. Oh, the London tabloids could have used him; so far these Championships have produced precious little controversy. The most outrageous journalism has been a comic strip in The Daily Mail that featured a tennis player named Igor Lentil, who rested in a casket on odd-game breaks and was suspected of being Wimbledon's first vampire champion. Pretty tame stuff. Nobody even seemed to mind that a ball girl worked Centre Court for the first time or that the balls themselves were yellow.
Hence, when Kevin Curren, last year's runner-up, lost in the first round, he earned the distinction of being the only person in history to lose successive Wimbledon rounds with different colored balls. The fellow who put out Curren, by the score of 6-4, 6-7, 2-6, 6-4, 12-10, was Eric Jelen (the J is pronounced as in yes, yuppie or Jarryd), a West German soldier with grass-court skills. Jelen's effective return to civilian status (he's earning his stripes by representing his country on the Grand Prix circuit) gives Boris Becker an imposing Davis Cup colleague.