Krickstein lost to Yannick Noah, the French champion, in the 16s. Then Arias bumped Noah in a marvelous five-setter to make the semis against Lendl. At 19, Arias is the youngest player ever to reach the final four at the Open. Hitting forehands catty-cornered, he and Lendl slugged it out, but Lendl won in straight sets. In the other half of the draw, Connors manhandled a suddenly discombobulated Scanlon to set the stage for another Connors-Lendl final, the one trying to repeat, the other attempting to win his first Grand Slam title and prove his mettle upon the consummate stage....
So here it was set point for Lendl in the third, and he threw the second ball up, tossed it poorly, and the serve fell into the net. Double fault. Back to deuce. For some inexplicable reason, that lapse was too much for Lendl. Well, it has been a tough year—only $657,378 in prize money coming into the Open, after trucking away $2,028,850 last year.
"I just felt mentally down after the double fault," he said afterward, sotto voce. Lendl lost the next two points. He lost the next two games. "He missed three or four balls for no reason," a baffled Connors acknowledged. The set went to Connors when Lendl halfheartedly jerked a routine forehand into the net. That done, he lost another six consecutive games, barely moving off a spot just inside the baseline, bothering only to flick at balls that happened to land conveniently near him, in the manner of some dispirited teaching pro, punching the clock, not troubling with shots that fell a couple steps away.
The stands, smelling blood, roared for Connors. However, down in the champions' box, in the southwest corner of the court, the previous winners felt only disgust and shame and revulsion at what they saw. How could someone dare do this to a tournament they had fought to win with their skills and always honored with their effort? How do you say No más in Czech?
Thank heaven one obsolete antique is still playing this troubled game.
She Put Herself Into High Gear And Headed North
Days before her victory was obtained, Martina Navratilova and her friends were already contemplating how best she might present herself in triumph. Navratilova herself seriously suggested that she would begin her awards ceremony speech by crooning New York, New York: "Start spreadin' the news...." This idea was vetoed on two grounds, voice being one. The other: The last time Navratilova had orchestrated her victory address in advance, she was upset the next day. That was in May, at the French Open, where she had planned to deliver a speech in French. Then Kathy Horvath handed Navratilova her only defeat in 67 matches this year.
Last week Navratilova's friend, Nancy Lieberman, the basketball star, said, "The trouble with you tennis players is, you win a big match, you bang your racket on the net. Or you throw it. Great. What does a racket do back to you?" Basketball players, Lieberman said, now they give high fives to people. So on Saturday, if Navratilova beat Chris Evert Lloyd to win her first U.S. Open, she would go to the friends' box at courtside and give high fives. Only she and her buddies forgot one thing: How hard it would be for Navratilova to give high fives, because her winning the Open would mean that The Torch had been passed, from Lenglen to Moody to Marble to Betz, to Connolly to Gibson, to Bueno to Smith to King to Evert Lloyd to Navratilova, and how, pray, does one give high fives with a racket in one hand and The Torch in the other?
But she managed, for in these times there is little the lady from Dallas in her new après-bowling tennis outfits can't do upon the courts of green. She savaged the Open, made it unforgettable for tedious excellence. She lost but 19 games in seven matches, which required, in toto, slightly more than six hours. The over-and-under line was 52 minutes per outing, and one of the loudest cheers for Evert Lloyd in the final was the applause, from insiders, that rippled through the stands when the time-of-match clock ticked up from :59 in the last game, signifying that she, at least, alone, had occupied Navratilova for an hour. The score was one and three for Evert Lloyd; six, six and oh for Navratilova. The oh is for chokes.
Sure, as every mother's child knew, Navratilova could win Wimbledons left and right, the odd French and Australian and all those winter championships that are named after a product. She could win money with her left hand—more than any man, woman or woman-child in the history of tennis, over-the-table division. But she could not win the championship of her adopted country. Took the pipe. The old casaba. Folded like a dollar suitcase. Even made people forget that Sam Snead never won his U.S. Open. Or Bjorn Borg his. Or, as Evert Lloyd delicately proposed the day before the final, "Nerves might enter in."