Now he served for the match at 5-4. But Connors, screeching and pumped up by the partisan crowd, carried the game to 30—all, whereupon he unleashed four absolutely bloodcurdling blasts, three of them good. Forehand winner off a let cord. His ad. Forehand into the net. Deuce. Backhand winner. Again his ad. Backhand winner for the game. Then bedlam. It was 5-5, then 6-5 Connors as he held serve. At this moment who would have bet against the destiny of this amazing battler, who somehow always manages to win this tournament in even-numbered years?
McEnroe would, that's who. First he held serve for 6—all, forcing the tie-breaker, which in fact was anticlimactic. From 1-2 on serve, Connors slugged a setup volley into the net and then sailed a backhand deep off McEnroe's angled return. "Abortionated points. The two worst points of my life," Connors said. McEnroe served out the match a few minutes into its fifth hour, at once erasing the final Connors legacy at the Open and setting the stage for the confrontation everyone had been waiting for.
On the morrow, of course, Borg and McEnroe disappointed no one except the Australian travel agents lurking about the National Tennis Center. Down Under is where Borg would have journeyed in December for the last leg of the elusive Slam. Now he can stay home for Christmas. And so, too, can McEnroe.
These days the women's draw at the Open seems not so much a tournament as a teen-age slumber party. Two years ago there was 16-year-old Pam Shriver reaching the final. Last year there was 16-year-old Tracy Austin winning the championship. This time the Open had not one but two dumpling queens, Andrea Jaeger, 15, of the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire, and Hana Mandlikova, 18, of Prague. But most of all the 1980 Open had a sophisticated, slimmed-down, grown-up, married version of all these pixies. She was the original Open prodigy, she of the two-fisted backhand. The measuring stick. The one and only. Chris Evert Lloyd. And, girl, did Chris show everybody! At 25 she's not getting older, she's getting better.
In truth, when Evert Lloyd left the tour at the beginning of the year her game was a shambles, her confidence destroyed. Evert Lloyd knew she couldn't beat Tracy Austin. That talk last January of "needing a rest" didn't wash. Austin not only had stolen away Evert Lloyd's Open title after four straight winning years, but she had also defeated her in Germany and then routed her three times in 11 days on the indoor circuit in the U.S. That was the final blow. Pretty, sexy, well-adjusted, happily married ladies have their competitive fire, too. But this was unbearable. Austin had given up only 10 games in six sets to Evert Lloyd. She had picked apart Chris' game and stripped it bare.
Little wonder then that as Chris slowly began to lose weight and gain mobility by practicing with her husband, as she reentered the game on her turf, European clay, as she won four tournaments and 40 of 41 matches, losing only to Evonne Goolagong in a letdown final at Wimbledon after beating Navratilova—she dreamed of the day she would get another shot at Austin. To win the U.S. Open, Evert Lloyd thought to herself, I have to beat Tracy. To be No. 1 again, I have to beat Tracy.
On the eve of their looking-glass war in the semifinals Evert Lloyd was a "nervous wreck." She ate little. She was irritable. She told her husband, "I've never wanted a match more." The next day she lost the first four games of that match.
But growing up and hanging on to No. 1 has changed Austin as well; she hits the ball harder, she makes mistakes, she feels it in the throat.
As Evert Lloyd clawed back into the match she noticed Austin's tentative forehand, her proclivity to lob under stress and a notable impatience. "This wasn't the loose player I remembered," Evert Lloyd said.
So the champion bore in, hitting volleys on the run and clearing out the Austin lobs with deft overheads. She worked over Austin's lollipop second serves. She changed the pace and maneuvered her opponent around the court, mixing her up, wrong-footing her, confusing the issue. Then she plugged her machinelike stuff from the backcourt into the corners à la the old Chris.