Ashe said he was "dead" in the third set. He said he "coasted" in the fourth when he fell too far behind. But in the 10th game of the fifth Gerulaitis rudely snatched the contest from him with four clean machine-gun returns.
"I guessed right four times," Vitas said after his 4-6, 8-9, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 upset. "This match will last a whole year for me." Or at least for two days, until he was defeated by Ramirez.
Ashe, subdued but dignified as always, said, "The thing won't sink in until tomorrow, but I can tell you it hasn't been relaxing going around being called 'the champion.' "
A man whom they weren't calling champion—one of the few things they weren't calling him—and still won't, was Connors. This was supposed to be Jimbo's year. Connors had a new serious image in that he was only making obscene gestures a few times an hour. He had a new sleek girl friend in Margi Wallace, late of Jimmy Brown, Peter Rev-son and George Best. He had a new adviser, a black doctor named Earl Wood. Connors' mother, Gloria, even had a new hair color, Rhonda Fleming maroon.
This terrific crew came rolling into Wimbledon like some Bel Air mafia set to plunder the place and recover what was so rudely taken from their leader last year. Few doubted that the resourceful Connors would do just that. " Ashe and Nastase talk about being 'scared' of Wimbledon," said Jimbo. "I don't understand. I wasn't scared the first time and I'm not scared now. It's like the Olympics. I've won and lost here. I know the difference."
The difference in the quarterfinals was the man with the express-train deliveries, Tanner. Since Jimbo crushed the Tennessean at Wimbledon last year, they have met five times, with Tanner letting Connors off the hook twice but beating him a month ago at Beckenham. Tanner-Connors is all left-handed bazookas and mutual respect. This time, after a slow start, Roscoe kept pulling aces out of his sleeve and throwing 19 of them Connors' way. On defense he mixed slices, chips and other junk—"sloppy stuff," Tanner called it—just as Ashe had done last year in defeating Connors.
Slowly the match became a ritual slaughter as Tanner served "harder than I ever have" while Connors became tentative and his own first serve collapsed. Only Jimbo's fortitude and competitiveness stayed with him as he lost the first two sets 6-4, 6-2 and fell behind 2-5, 0-40 in the third. He saved three match points on sheer will that carried him for eight games until a Tanner backhand return screeched down the line to give him an 8-6 victory.
"Why? Why this two years in a row?" said a dejected Chris Evert as she filed out of Centre Court behind dark glasses. "Jimmy's the best in the world. Why does he go around the bend here?"
Evert herself was not about to do the same thing. All eyes were on her as top seed, as leader of the women players' demands for parity in prize money and as Connors' ex. Still she managed to practice hard and keep her mind on a title she wanted more than anything in her illustrious career.
The "Jimmy thing," as Evert called it, would not go away. Every time the two got anywhere near one another, photographers panted, but Connors and Evert merely exchanged greetings and went separate ways—once while a stone-faced Margi looked on from a terrace. One day Gloria Connors came by in the players' tea room and, in an awkward moment, said, "Chris, I think you've really matured." Evert scrunched up her nose and blushed. "Well, what's she supposed to do?" said a friend. "Tell Gloria 'Thank you, you look quite a bit older yourself?"