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But it was too late. The volatile Rumanian is used to threatening walkouts at a Hampton or an Indianapolis before returning to win, but he didn't dare to try such nonsense at the hallowed All England Club. And he wasn't about to come back against the steely will of an opponent who had dreamed of this moment since he was just a child, which, it seems, was only a couple of hours ago.
Borg kept unleashing vicious first serves, saved the set twice, then broke for 8-7 with a pass off the backhand and a Nastase volley error. After the Swede served out the match at love and hurled his racket on high, Nastase hopped the net to embrace one of the few rivals he genuinely likes. "I don't know what to say," mumbled the dazed new champion. "I think I am the happiest in all time."
Any tournament lucky enough to find a Borg and a Nastase cavorting about the premises generates its own heat. But in terms of temperatures rising, this was the hottest Wimbledon of all. In the suffocating first week, mad dogs and Englishmen kept going out in the midday sun to find thermometers hovering around 95�. The second week was hardly more comfortable. Umpires and linesmen were permitted the astounding indulgence of doffing their coats and ties, but there was no respite for ticket-holders who kept lining up in interminable queues and passing out from heat exhaustion. On one day 500 people were reported to have fainted around the grounds.
The seeded players began succumbing along with the spectators, notably John Newcombe. Having struggled through a five-set losing doubles with Tony Roche against the eventual champions, Brian Gottfried and Raul Ramirez, and having survived 42 aces from John Feaver in another five-setter, the old lion did not have enough left for Bernie Mitton, a heavily bearded South African. Mitton played two fine tie-breaks to knock Newk out of perhaps his last Wimbledon.
Adriano Panatta, recently red hot as champion of Italy and France as well as of all the signorinas in sight, retired on the same day as Newcombe. Panatta had barely reached the third round by turning aside a hilariously rotund Australian named Dale Collings, who wore a white baseball cap and wiggled like a beached eel when he served. When Panatta stopped laughing he won, but the dashing Roman was not so amused by Charlie Pasarell.
At 3-all in the fifth set, Panatta halted play to pick up a bird—an injured sparrow, not a squealing schoolgirl—which he carefully deposited in the cupped hands of a spectator. His own wings were clipped when Pasarell broke serve in the ninth game. Panatta pulled one of his escape acts in the 10th, saving six match points, but Pasarell prevailed 8-9, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
"Watch this guy," defending champion Arthur Ashe said of his close friend. "Pasarell can win if they put him on Centre Court because he raises his game 50% there. When they put Charlie on the outside he's just Charlie."
Unfortunately this was just after Ashe himself had surrendered his title on an outside court, losing to Vitas Gerulaitis. Ashe had been laboring with a wandering service toss all week—CHAMP NEARLY A CHUMP blared one newspaper headline—when he met the curly-haired Gerulaitis, who is weary of being identified as a foot disease.
For such a talented player, Gerulaitis rarely buckles down to take advantage of his athletic ability and some of the finest service returns in the game, but anybody who does amazing things like wearing velvets in his home borough of Queens, N.Y. and driving a white Rolls-Royce in his team tennis home of Pittsburgh can certainly get away with upsetting Arthur Ashe at Wimbledon.
Which is what happened after Ashe won the first two sets only to succumb, by his own reckoning, first to the heat, then to the tension and finally to his opponent's exceptional receiving ability.