- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
This was Chris Evert's second Wimbledon—she lost in the semis last year and returned to Florida feeling blue—and she prepared for it by traveling the European circuit with her mother and her tennis-playing boyfriend, Jimmy Connors, whom she met in England last year. Besides the near-miss in Paris, she lost in the Rome final to Goolagong, got only three games from Virginia Wade at Nottingham, and at Queen's Club in London lost to Julie Heldman for the first time in five years. It was not exactly a disastrous tour, but it was not what many had expected of the queen of Florida clay. The word filtered out: get Chris away from palm trees and she is anything but invincible. Everybody already knew that she could not volley and that her overhead was not notable for its zing.
After her upset of Court, any depression from her European misadventures was wiped away, and the embarrassing questions about when she and Connors would get engaged were easier to cope with, though Evert still blushed and became annoyed.
"I'd hoped that one day I'd be in a Wimbledon final, but I never thought I'd make it this year," she said on Wednesday. "Now it's all worth it to me. Reaching the finals at Wimbledon has made it all worth it."
Evert had a few things going for her besides her own crisp ground strokes. Father Vincent Kelly, principal of her high school in Fort Lauderdale, was on hand and presumably praying, and the Wimbledon crowd would be with her. A few years ago things were different. The fans had loved feisty Billie Jean Moffitt when she had first turned up as a 17-year-old, but now that she is a feisty conglomerate—camps, pro shops, shoe and racket endorsements, the new union, tennis clothes, another book in preparation, a personal secretary—they would prefer she didn't win so bloody much. One sympathetic columnist felt the need to urge the Wimbledon fans to "be nice to Billie Jean," and King herself swore she saw some boys wearing Billie Jean King T shirts.
But King did not really need rooters. She has a better all-round game than Evert and far more experience. The King-Evert match was set for Friday, but it started raining just before play was to begin and the day's program was canceled. Since there are no rain checks at Wimbledon, the customers had to be content with watching the ground crew crank up a tent to cover Centre Court. The match was moved over to Saturday—to be played before the men's final—and it did not take up much time once it began. King's volleys were too deep and hard, Evert made far too many unforced errors and that startling first set was over in 17 minutes. Evert did put on a better show in the second set, but the issue never seemed in doubt.
When it was done, King talked about her passion for ice cream and of a 6-0, 6-1 loss she had suffered at the hands of Evert in Florida last year. "I've never forgotten that," she said. "I didn't hit one bloomin' ball on the court. Today I wanted to prove to the people at home that I could play, too."
Meanwhile, on the men's side, one benefit of the boycott was that it gave a few young players the chance to make names for themselves, and there is no place in tennis more fitting than Wimbledon for name-making. Bj�rn Borg, with his good looks, shy manner and long blond mane, stole the attention of most of the schoolgirls from Nastase—and with his two-fisted backhand and top-spin forehand, stole a few matches, too.
When Borg changed ends during a match, the Beatlemaniacs would cry out, "You're so sweet!" When he defeated German Karl Meiler, such a loud squeal arose that it sounded like an oldtime Frank Sinatra concert.
His dramatic matches made Borg even more appealing. It took him five sets to beat Meiler, five more to defeat Hungarian Szabolcs Baranyi and five to lose to Roger Taylor (the last set was 7-5). Sweden's Davis Cup coach, Lennart Bergelin, watched over Borg.
"All this goes to the head," said Bergelin, "so I get him up every morning to run. That clears the head."