Borg played ice hockey almost every winter day of his boyhood until he was 14, but he also dabbled in tennis at least as early as nine, using a racket his father won as first prize in a table-tennis tournament in his hometown 10 miles from Stockholm. Borg was reared on clay courts and has a lot to learn about grass: his high-kicking second serve is suicidal and he needs a little work on his low volleys.
The second young man to seize the chance to shine up his reputation was Alex Mayer, the NCAA champion from Stanford whose father was once a highly ranked tennis player in Hungary and Yugoslavia. Alexander Mayer now runs a tennis camp in Mount Freedom, N.J. and will soon be sending another son to play tennis at Stanford. Young Mayer shocked Nastase in the fourth round, beating the volatile and sore-backed Rumanian in four sets with some superb service returns and volleying. When Papa Mayer heard about it, he grabbed a plane for London and arrived in time to see his son play eighth-seeded Jurgen Fassbender. Mayer lost the first two sets but struggled back to win, sparing himself a long critique from dad, who had taken copious notes on his program in bright green ink.
"He knows about Centre Court jitters," said the elder Mayer. "I've been raising him for this since he was two."
Mayer lost in the semis to the Soviet star, Metreveli; in the other half of the draw the Czech clay-court specialist, Kodes, beat Taylor, the gloomy Yorkshire-man who has the demeanor to star as Heathcliff in the next movie remake of Wuthering Heights. They played a long, tough match that was interrupted by drizzle with Taylor leading 5-4 in the fifth set and Kodes serving. They resumed 40 minutes later, Kodes won three straight games and the match, and gone were Britain's hopes that Taylor, who had defied the union and entered Wimbledon, would be the first British player to win the men's singles in more than 30 years. To be precise, the last time was 1936, when Fred Perry beat Germany's Baron Gottfried von Cramm.
To illustrate how second-rate the men's field was this year, three of the four semifinalists were from Lamar Hunt's World Championship Tennis tour—Taylor, Kodes and Metreveli—but only one of them had made the WCT championship tournament in Dallas. That was Taylor, who barely squeaked in and then lost to Ken Rosewall in the first round. Metreveli failed to win a WCT tournament and had never even made the finals of a major event.
Kodes' straight sets victory was only slightly more thrilling than two counter girls from the tea lawn coming out and throwing Bath buns and chocolate �clairs at each other across the net. The press box was more than half empty through most of it.
There was no indication, however, that the people in the stands felt robbed. At the start of the fortnight a London columnist wrote, "... Wimbledon will prove in the next two weeks that it is bigger than the little men who have tried to reduce it to nothing." A bit of Colonel Blimp bombast, true, but he was right about the spectator loyalty.
Even though most of the world's best players were long gone and even though the BBC offered hours of color telecasts live and on tape every day, it seemed as if everybody from John o' Groat's south to Land's End was trying to get through the gates of the All England Club. Queueing up politely is a national pastime in Britain, and this was quadruply evident at Wimbledon. People would stand in line for hours, sometimes waiting overnight in a drizzle, for tickets to get into the grounds—then stand in line again for the privilege of packing themselves 15 and 16 rows deep in the sardine-can standing-room sections of Centre Court. Many who could not get into the grounds stood outside and followed the progress of the matches on the scoreboard.
Attendance for the 13 days was 300,172, second-highest in history. Such passionate tennis buffs deserve better than Kodes-Metreveli. If they should ever get a British champion again, Admiral Nelson will have to give up his pedestal in Trafalgar Square—or at least move over. And come what may, there will always be an All England.