him 'Tappy' because he liked to tap things the way people tap wood, and very
often he tapped people, just nudging them twice with his knuckles, or maybe
even three times, depending on his mood. Friends would say it was a 'twosies'
day for Larsen, or maybe 'threesies.' It was a habit that came from the Army
and the Battle of the Bulge, which he didn't think he was going to survive. He
kept knocking on a tree growing beside his foxhole. He's kept at it ever since.
I remember at Wimbledon one year that every time we'd change courts he'd tap me
twice. It got annoying and finally I said, 'Hey, come on, Tappy, quit tapping
me.' But the next time we went by the net posts he got me again with his two
taps—it was a 'twosies' day for him—which aggravated me so much that for the
next court change I walked around the far end of the net. Larsen had a fit. He
called out, 'Hey, you can't do that,' and he chased after me to try to tap me
because if he didn't get to me and do it, it broke some sort of sequence which
was very important to him.
playing him in the finals in San Antonio one year. We had a football
player-type umpire up in the chair who didn't know too much about the game, and
right from the beginning I began arguing with him. From across the net Larsen
kept trying to aggravate things. 'Just tell him off, Mulloy,' he'd yell. 'If I
were you, I'd punch him right in the nose.'
split sets, and in the third set Larsen himself suddenly got in a row with this
guy. I wasn't going to let that go by, so I called out, 'Don't let that bum get
away with anything, Lars. If I were you I'd punch him right in the nose.'
" Larsen got
so angry in the dressing room during the rest period, so preoccupied about that
umpire, that I noticed when we went out to the court to begin the fourth set
that he had left a wire coat hanger stuck in his fresh shirt. I could see the
hook of it sticking out behind his neck. I said, 'Hey, Lars, you've got a coat
hanger....' and he felt around, and sure enough it was there—he could feel
it—but he wouldn't take it out. 'I can't do without it now,' he said, 'it would
be bad luck.'
"So he played
out the fourth set, which he lost, wearing this coat hanger, and the crowd
buzzing about it. He told me later that it hadn't bothered him much because he
thought what a fine perch the coat hanger made for his eagle."
"We have a
plan," Pancho Segura said. "We talk about it just now in the locker
room." He was settling himself in the players' box for the Connors-Borg
match. He was wearing a light gray tank suit and very highly polished black
shoes. A small towel was tucked around his neck. "We are going to catch
Borg's top-spin early," he said, "and hit out hard, especially when we
are inside the baseline. And we are going to punish this guy's second serve.
Also, we will try to get him to come to the net. Drop-shot him. He cannot
volley easily because he must change his grip from that wrist-flip forehand of
his." Segura demonstrated. "The trouble is, Jimmy cannot
drop-shot." He winced and put his head down and massaged his temples.
"Oh, I would drop him, oh yes."
incessantly. A stranger will plunk into an empty seat next to him during a
match, reach for a cigarette, and just as he taps it against his cigarette case
he will hear the voice at his ear: "Jimmy got to be patient. He should not
come to net on shoulder-high balls because we cannot get a good
follow-through...." And the stranger will see the pale, olive face and the
black eyes, and even if he hasn't the slightest idea who has taken him into his
confidence he will be in for an instructive hour or so.
Connors' adviser, but he also would like to be Nastase's, or Ramirez', and
probably even Borg's, and anyone else's curious about the intricacies of tennis
strategy. Ken Rosewall says that just before an important European match
between himself and Lew Hoad he happened to overhear a locker-room conversation
in which Segura was telling Hoad how to beat him. By chance, Segura looked up
and spotted Rosewall; he was so embarrassed that he'd been overheard and that
anyone might think his advice was exclusively Hoad's that he came rushing
around the corner to begin telling Rosewall how to beat Hoad.
It took almost an
hour for Connors to get through the first set against Borg, and Segura was
worried that Connors' strength would begin to fade. He moaned about the number
of game points that had been squandered. Connors' main trouble had been with
his approach shots—setting Borg up satisfactorily by getting him to hit short
and weak, but then driving the ball into the top of the net as he came in.
Segura said he was standing up too straight. "His seat should be
lower," Pancho said.
monologue swooped from despair to delight and then back again. "Jimmy's got
so much strength...he doesn't know the strength of his ground strokes...he's
got everything, the complete player...now watch, look at the length of that
shot...slice it, Jimbo. Good, that's good—see how Borg has difficulty to hit
the topspin off the slice. Very nice...oh, oh, oh, I didn't like that at all,
not at all. We're dead, we're just dead." He dropped his head in his hands.
He peeked out. "Well, he's behind, but then he attacks so well when he is
behind. I'd like to see him do that when he's ahead. I tell him a thousand
times, come to the net and attack when we are ahead 30-love or 40-15. He