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After his tumultuous opener, McEnroe reached the fourth round on his best behavior lest another fine earn him a post-Open suspension. Mac evidently still had the shoulder problems that have bothered him since January, and he appeared stale, perhaps from working all the one-night stands that he and Guillermo Vilas play on McEnroe's Tennis Over America exhibition tour. Whatever the reasons, against Bill Scanlon in the 16s, McEnroe constantly let the shots play him. Still, he might have snuck through had not Scanlon, the 16th seed and a decidedly unfriendly rival of McEnroe's, played so well, repeatedly planting service returns at Mac's feet and threading passing shots by him.
Scanlon came on tour in 77, auspiciously whopping Top 10ers, but then the rudderless traveling life caught up with him, his ranking plummeted, and he "turned into a basket case." Scanlon was Exhibit A, one of the first characters introduced by Michael Mewshaw in his tennis expose, Short Circuit. "I didn't retire," Scanlon told Mewshaw. "I became a degenerate. I would have started drinking before noon—if I ever got up before noon." Only when he signed with Warren Jacques, a highly regarded Australian expatriate who resides in Texas and whose coaching had spirited Kevin Curren and Steve Denton into the upper echelons, did Scanlon begin to take the high road back on the journey that culminated with his upset of McEnroe.
If McEnroe was out, Lendl was positively breezing, losing nary a set. Connors' trip to the finals was nearly as clean, notwithstanding some creep's telephoned death threat. Indeed, a birthday present that Connors' wife, Patti, delivered to him on Sept. 2, when he turned 31, seemed to rattle Jimbo more than any opponent. Patti ordered up a strip-o-gram for hubby, and he was absolutely mortified as the young lady ground down to pasties and g-string in the players' lounge, while those assembled roared more at his evident embarrassment than at the paid entertainment.
Meanwhile, out on the courts....
Will you welcome, please, Aaron Krickstein, just turned 16 last month, the youngest U.S. junior champion ever. Krickstein was one of 22 players at the Open who have been under the tutelage of Nick Bollettieri, the coach from Bradenton, Fla. Krickstein brought the tournament to life, packing the grandstand in the third round as he came back from a two-set deficit against a quaking Vitas Gerulaitis. When Krickstein won four straight games to win the fifth set 6-4, the ballboys, most of them older than the victor, solemnly filed by to shake the playerboy's hand.
No American male, not even another Bollettieri prodigy, Jimmy Arias, ever made such a run so young. Krickstein slugs the ball, two-handed on the backhand, belying his slight 5'10" frame. "Look at his body," said his father, Herb, a pathologist in Grosse Pointe, Mich. "He's pathetic. But he's fearless on the tennis court." The kid is also utterly unflappable. "When he really gets excited," says Bollettieri, "he bends his left arm."
He does what?
"He bends his left arm. That's when I know he's fired up."
Well, this will certainly make for an interesting contrast.
The grandson of a rabbi, Krickstein also bids to become the first Jewish champion since Dick Savitt, the '51 Wimbledon winner. "Gee," a reporter gurgled to Dr. Krickstein after his son beat Gerulaitis, "have you ever thought the boy might play for the Israeli Davis Cup team?" Dr. Krickstein paused, possibly even bent his left arm, and said that what he and Aaron sort of had in mind was that someday Aaron might play for the United States of America's team.