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A DUEL OF PACE AND POWER
Curry Kirkpatrick
September 20, 1976
"The best tennis I've ever played" was demanded of Jimmy Connors to beat Bjorn Borg, while Chris Evert walloped Evonne Goolagong to turn the U.S. Open into an All-American jamboree
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September 20, 1976

A Duel Of Pace And Power

"The best tennis I've ever played" was demanded of Jimmy Connors to beat Bjorn Borg, while Chris Evert walloped Evonne Goolagong to turn the U.S. Open into an All-American jamboree

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Later, serving to even the match at 6-all in the third set, the gritty Pohmann was stricken with cramps and fell down three times. Umpire George Armstrong mistakenly called for a doctor (the rule book prohibits a player from receiving aid for injury from natural causes), whereupon Nastase screamed, "Is not football. No time-outs."

As the match roared to its conclusion, Nastase screamed and ranted at everything and everybody. He saved two match points; Pohmann saved four, before succumbing to a volley. Afterward, in slow succession, Pohmann refused to shake Nastase's hand, Nastase spit at him and called him bad things. Armstrong refused to shake Nastase's hand. Nastase swung his racket at the umpire and called him bad things. Nastase threatened his audience, and spectators had to be restrained from attacking him.

"Blank you, Hitler," Ilie screamed at Pohmann in the locker room.

"It is animal. Blank you, animal," Pohmann screamed right back. Nastase shoved his opponent and Pohmann threatened to sue. Bystanders broke up the fight.

If the disgraceful episode proved anything it was how woefully inadequate both the rules and their enforcement have become in big-time tennis. While Nastase probably should have been disqualified several times during the match (after the Open the ILTF imposed a 21-day suspension and the tournament committee fined him $1,000), so, too, should Pohmann have been defaulted for receiving medical aid.

"Three times I knock him out," Nastase said of his own passing shots, "but the umpire does nothing. Doctor come out as if Pohmann dead in a box and still they help him so he can run like crazy. If I delay minute, I'm cheater. If I breathe too much, crowd go crazy."

And so it seemed. For the next few days Forest Hills galleries treated Nastase as if he had stolen a bus and driven their children to Chowchilla.

The vigilante atmosphere was so obviously unfair it succeeded in arousing sympathetic responses for Nastase even from some fellow players, a turn of emotion previously believed impossible.

Before their third-round match Marty Riessen stood with Nastase under the marquee, listened to the rumbling of the crowd and said, "God, it's like the bullring. They're waiting for the kill."

Following Nastase's five-set victory over Roscoe Tanner, the loser paid tribute to his opponent's manners. "Ilie didn't pull anything," he said, "but with an audience like that I understand why he acts the way he does."

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