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THE GRAND FINALE
Curry Kirkpatrick
July 16, 1979
Bjorn Borg won his fourth straight Wimbledon championship, as expected, but he was taken to five sets by stubborn Roscoe Tanner, who played the match of his life
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July 16, 1979

The Grand Finale

Bjorn Borg won his fourth straight Wimbledon championship, as expected, but he was taken to five sets by stubborn Roscoe Tanner, who played the match of his life

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Austin has progressed one round for each of her three years at Wimbledon, but her lack of speed and—this time—depth kept her at a disadvantage against Martina, even when she served for the first set at 5-3. Right then Navratilova took advantage of a bad call against Austin, began attacking and won nine straight games (to 5-0 in the second set). Martina also had the patience, confidence and nerve to belt it out from the baseline, which produced a striking contrast between herself—tall and strong—and Tracy, still fluttery and squeaking like a church mouse as she lunged in vain after Navratilova's power.

Afterward Martina had some unfinished business to clear up. She had defeated Evert in last year's final, yet she felt her victory was considered a fluke. And she was right. Then a few weeks ago, at Eastbourne, the two rivals played what may have been the finest women's match of the open era, a 7-5, 5-7, 13-11 victory for Mrs. Lloyd, who saved three match points.

To get to Navratilova again, Lloyd defeated Cawley 6-3, 6-2 over 62 of the longest, least inspiring minutes imaginable—"The result," one wry Englishman explained, "of marrying Englishmen."

Then, on Friday, Navratilova finally proved she is no longer the ultimate choker. Toward the ends of two sets that weren't even close—"I was never in the match," Lloyd admitted later—Navratilova served at 5-3 and was broken both times. Here, with chances to wither and fall apart, she composed herself, hit out with alarming precision and broke back in each set to win her second championship, 6-4, 6-4.

"One more time," Martina screamed to her mother in their native tongue, shortly after which Ted Tinling, the dress designer who has been observing Wimbledon for more than 50 years, called Navratilova's performance "the most powerfully dominating exhibition since Helen Wills."

Which brought everybody back to talking history again, back to 23-year-old Bjorn Borg. The fellow has now won 38 of 41 matches at the All England Club and 28 in a row, which is three short of Rod Laver's record. His four singles titles match Laver's; however, Rod's did not come in consecutive years. The Rocket won in 1961 and 1962, then in 1968 and 1969. As a pro, he was not permitted to compete in the interval. But Borg's four straight are otherwise unprecedented because Wimbledon discarded the challenge-round system in 1922.

A true measure of Borg's achievement, however, must wait on a comparison with other individual sports and sportsmen. While Borg himself mentioned Eddy Merckx, the Belgian cyclist who won five Tour de France, probably the Swede's awesome streak in London stacks up more realistically somewhere between the stunning longevity of Muhammad Ali and the instant legend accorded Olympians Bob Beamon in Mexico City and Mark Spitz in Munich.

What, then, has Borg done? "I don't think the rest of us in tennis can even relate to four Wimbledons in a row," said Tanner.

More intriguing still, what in the world is Bjorn Borg yet to do?

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