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Curry Kirkpatrick
July 12, 1976
On Friday, Chris Evert glittered, on Saturday Bjorn Borg shone, both exulting in their Wimbledon titles
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July 12, 1976

Great Heavenly Days

On Friday, Chris Evert glittered, on Saturday Bjorn Borg shone, both exulting in their Wimbledon titles

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All along, a meeting between Evert and Evonne Goolagong in the final was as certain as curtsies in the royal box. Oh, there was the obligatory homage to 36-year-old Maria Bueno, the Sao Paulo Swallow who had an arm operation for each year she had been away from Wimbledon (eight), and there was the usual provincialism in support of the home lasses, Sue Barker and Virginia Wade. But young Barker was conned out of a match by the bouncy Czech, Martina Navratilova (later dispatched by Evert) and Wade resumed her annual Ginny fizzle, this time by winning only three games against Goolagong.

What with having never beaten Goolagong on grass and having lost their last two meetings, Evert was hardly favored to win her second Wimbledon. But outsiders do not know the fires that burn inside the Fort Lauderdale princess. Evert agonized for weeks over her loss to Goolagong in the Virginia Slims championships. "I'm not going to play the same way," she vowed. "I'm coming in. I'm pressing Evonne. I'm volleying. I'm going to win."

It is not easy to dismiss the fact that at Forest Hills and Wimbledon Goolagong had lost five of six finals. "Remember, she doesn't play well when she gets this far," Rosemary Casals cautioned Evert the morning of the match.

Indeed, neither woman set off sparks as they split sets. But the two always put on a fascinating study of method vs. mood and, once more, it simply came down to Evert outgutting Goolagong in the crunch.

On several key points Chris startled Evonne by rushing the net. Though she didn't always get to hit a volley, her jaunts were enough to throw Evonne off and confuse her. "I never felt I had any room to pass," Goolagong said.

The crisis for Evert arrived in the 12th game of the final set after she had served for the match in the 10th and been broken at love and after Goolagong had rattled off some winners to lead 6-5. Serving to save the match, Evert easily could have crumbled, but on the first point she crushed a backhand that Goolagong could not handle at net. "Right then I got confident again," Evert said.

The American held her serve to even the set. In the next game she came to deuce with an overhead. ("Billie Jean counted me 22 times at net and 22 points won," Evert said proudly.) Then she broke through on two Goolagong errors to lead 7-6. Finally, in the 14th game at 30-all, Evert rifled a rare service winner, then scooped a lob toward the baseline to win the match 6-3, 4-6, 8-6.

Weeping and trembling in her mother's arms, the Ice Maiden broke down. "Nobody will ever know how badly I wanted this," she said.

Bjorn Borg probably knows. Between them, last week's winners have won seven French and Italian championships. While Chris has three Slims titles, a couple of Wightman Cup team victories, two Wimbledons and her U.S. Open championship, Bjorn has won the Davis Cup, the WCT championship and now Wimbledon, too, all in the last seven months. She is 21. He is 20. A pair of clay-courters who ultimately came in from the dust to do it all on grass.

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