"Don't worry," they said. "We'll be there for the finals."
By that time Evert had lengthened her improbable clay court winnning streak, taking her 113th straight match and 23rd straight tournament over four years. She also won her third straight U.S. Open. In the midst of all this, Chris had these quickie statistics: she won her first 12 points of the tournament; she won a match at love in 36 minutes; she won nine straight games from Billie Jean King and closed out their non-contest 6-2, 6-0; she skinned the Rabbit, Turnbull, in the final by 7-6, 6-2, and never once looked inspired. "Chris could play these things in her dreams," said Billie Jean.
"I'm thrilled about the clay streak," said Evert. "Now I need new goals. I don't think I'll be in tennis a whole lot longer, but I'll stay till something better comes along." Waxing sentimental over Forest Hills, Evert said, "I'll never forget my first year here [as a 16-year-old schoolgirl she captivated New Yorkers by getting to the semifinals]. I feel sad this is the last Forest Hills."
The last Forest Hills also provided a barrel of firsts. This was the first Open to (sometimes) enforce the new penalty-point system, which discourages outrageous behavior. This was the first Open to be subjected to bomb threats and to a prayer vigil protesting the participation of South African players.
This, too, was the first Open to feature Mike Fishbach and his magic wand—a tennis racket strung with nylon monofilament fishing line, rope strands, tubing, adhesive tape and maybe a bit of pepperoni. The racket took Fishbach 30 hours to string. Then he went out and beat Billy Martin and Stan Smith before losing to John Feaver. "Of course it's legal," Fishbach said about the "spaghetti racket." "I could play with a shoe or a tree or a bottle of apple juice and it would be legal."
Undoubtedly this also was the first Open in which a spectator looked down to find a bullet wound in his leg. And the first in which a whole stadium full of anarchists refused to budge when told the matches were finished for the afternoon. "We won't go! We won't go!" they chanted, until tournament officials chose discretion over riot and ordered the Vilas-Jose Higueras match to be played as scheduled rather than during the evening session that followed.
Further enhancing the public relations between West Side and the tennis community was William McCullough, a member of the board of governors of the club, who called a press conference and proceeded to chastise the USTA for moving the Open next year to a neighborhood (Corona, Queens) which he said was 95% Negro. In fact, it is more than 80% white.
Arthur Ashe, the one black among West Side's 1,000 members (and he had to win the Open to get an honorary membership) labeled McCullough's remarks "institutionally racist" and said he would resign "as soon as my wife has her chance to play tennis on the grass." As it was, McCullough resigned as the club's chairman for the Open the next day.
What also kept the U.S. Open from wallowing in dullness, in light of the shortage of tennis drama, was the appearance of two people unique to their game as well as to big-time sport, Renee Richards and Tracy Austin.
Richards, the 43-year-old transsexual, was forced to sue to get into the tournament, primarily because of the women players' fear of the unknown, i.e., her physical capabilities. But once her lack of mobility and unorthodox, off-the-wrong-foot forehand were exposed, her first-round loss to Virginia Wade by 6-1, 6-4 was predictable.