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When there was still a tennis tournament to speak of, way back in the second round, it was obvious that the U.S. Pro Indoor was not one of those Grand Heavyweight World Challenge Dynamite Classic Cups played for the television cameras. No, this was a real flesh-and-blood tournament, the kind that people like Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase and Manuel Orantes apparently have forgotten how to win, and the sort that Jimmy Connors usually wraps up.
But last Sunday in Philadelphia, a city often rumored to be closed and which, because of the frigid weather and the natural-gas shortage, nearly was, Connors got a case of amnesia, too. After Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp had shut down schools, theaters and other public facilities, a marvelous competitor named Dick Stockton shut down Connors, coming from a set behind, not once but twice, to defeat the defending champion 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Dick Stockton? Isn't he the PGA champion who wears the funny Amana hat and curls in 40-foot putts? Or is he the guy with the voice and the vested suit who hung out in Minneapolis doing Super Bowl color for NBC?
Actually, this is Richard LaClede Stockton, a 25-year-old serve-and-volley power player out of the tennis citadel of Garden City, N.Y. who left behind some heroic records in the junior ranks before he went on to stardom at Trinity ( Texas) University and obscurity on the pro circuit. In fact, his biggest win was the Lagos ( Nigeria) Classic in 1976, which was interrupted by a military coup and had to be played off in Caracas, Venezuela. Now we're talking obscurity.
Stockton was much more prominent in the fourth and fifth sets on Sunday, when he could do nothing wrong in his service games and Connors could do nothing right—not even throw in his usually trusty scare tactics.
The last man to beat Connors in a five-set match was Nastase in 1973, and from the way Connors had blazed through the earlier rounds, it didn't seem anybody would nail Jimbo that way for another four years.
Up until Sunday Connors' most strenuous activity was producing funny lines after his annihilations and accepting accolades normally reserved for hall-of-famers. Indeed, his greatest concern seemed to be the weather.
"I read where they closed the schools," Connors said. "Does the Spectrum have a different kind of heat?"
"They don't sell tickets to schools," somebody answered.
Connors sold plenty of tickets—the advance receipts for the seven-day tournament were announced as "stupendous"—with his own brand of white heat, which embarrassed such notable opponents as Tony Roche, Wojtek Fibak and Cliff Drysdale.