The rules of tennis are very strict. For example, it is absolutely forbidden to stage a major tennis event without a boycott, a lockout or a lawsuit. Thus it was probably some relief to Bill Riordan, manager of Jimmy Connors and promoter of last Saturday's internationally televised Connors-John Newcombe challenge match, when a sheriff's deputy served notice that Riordan was being sued for $175,000. Riordan was shooting craps in the Caesars Palace casino at the time, which was Friday morning after breakfast. Everybody in Las Vegas shoots craps after breakfast. It is good for the digestion.
The notification was a subpoena to appear in New York Supreme Court. The Mark McCormack organization, which represents Newcombe, Arnold Palmer and numerous other sports stars, claimed that it had been promised a piece of the promotion but had not been let in.
"That's peanuts," said Riordan. " Jack Kramer's suing me for $3 million." And, having many other things on his mind, he wandered out of the casino, leaving the subpoena on the crap table.
The requisite lawsuit had been filed, all the ballyhooed controversies had been settled and the way was clear for the main event. In this corner, the champion of Wimbledon and Forest Hills, the conqueror of Rod Laver at Caesars Palace last February—Jimmy Connors. And in the opposite corner, three-time Wimbledon champion, winner of this year's Australian Open over Connors, the man whom Connors had failed to beat in three tries—John Newcombe. A crowd of about 3,800 in the hotel's new tennis pavilion and a 10-nation television audience of more than 25 million saw Connors prove once again that he is the world's No. 1 player by beating Newcombe in four sets, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
If the match was not nearly as dramatic as Connors' win over Laver, the financial results were certainly more stunning. Caesars Palace put up $250,000 to stage the affair, CBS kicked in $600,000 for TV rights, and foreign TV and other rights yielded close to another $150,000.
The upshot: Jimmy Connors, age 22, won himself close to half a million dollars. Despite the fact that CBS advertised the match was "winner take all," Newcombe's losing take was in the neighborhood of $300,000.
Connors traveled to Las Vegas with his by-now-familiar retinue, plus a few new faces. There was mother Gloria, Manager Riordan and Coach Pancho Segura. His sparring partners were John Feaver, a young Englishman with a powerful Newk-like serve, Bob Kreiss and Vitas Gerulaitis. Also on hand was his 80-year-old maternal grandfather, Al Thompson, who had not seen him play a big match in person for several years.
For his part, Newcombe sparred with two left-handed Australians, Tony Roche and Owen Davidson, and Ken Rosewall was around early in the week. Newk had played in only three tournaments (plus the Davis Cup and World Cup) and was not expected to be as sharp as he would have liked. He had wanted to play the WCT tournament in Denver the previous week but had dropped out when Connors decided to enter. While Newk worked out at the T-Bar-M Ranch near San Antonio, Connors was winning Denver rather easily.
There had been controversy galore preceding the Connors-Laver match. Who should referee? When should the cans of balls be opened? How many rooms and tickets would Caesars give Riordan? This time Riordan and/or Connors found some new things to fuss about.
When playing Laver, Connors had been annoyed by the crowd rooting against him, and at one point he made an obscene gesture toward comedienne Totie Fields. So a few weeks before the Newcombe match Riordan and Connors asked for the right to buy the 536 court-side seats. The request was summarily refused.