- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Speaking of which, before the scenario becomes any more complicated, one needs to go back to the beginning of the tournament and the man who was ultimately responsible for the skulduggery to follow: Mayer.
Even with the presence of the usual Masters heavies and Lendl, the most intriguing figure in the draw was the baby-faced, silver-tongued Mayer. After all, it isn't often one finds a 6-foot, 150-pounder who's a notorious trencherman, but Mayer has downed a dozen eggs or several pounds of vegetables or seven Big Macs—Tim Gullickson counted 'em—at a single sitting. He's also the heretofore unknown brother of veteran Sandy Mayer and a gambler who swashbuckles his oversized Prince racket two-handed from both sides. And he's the touch artist who, despite a string of injuries over the past three years, has jumped from 148th in the world computer standings to 12th to fourth. That's Gene Mayer.
On opening night in New York he created total havoc by jumping all over McEnroe, beating him 3-6, 7-6, 6-2 despite 17 aces from Junior, who had to battle stomach pains, a pulled muscle in his left leg and his chronic sore back in addition to the voracious Mayer.
What this upset, combined with Mayer's subsequent 6-3, 7-5 victory over Clerc, did was force McEnroe into the position of having to defeat his partner-in-legend, Borg, on Thursday night to remain alive in the tournament. Oh, what a night it was! The Knicks and the Rangers should have such good times at the Garden. Scalpers (cleaning up at $40 per); celebrities (Warhol, David Merrick, Robert Duvall, Henry Kissinger); a packed house (19,103); heavyweight championship atmosphere (Raging Mac vs. Sugar Bjorn). Even Connors, who has been eclipsed by the two younger men, called it "another classic matchup."
And it was. McEnroe's rhythm and texture were missing early as Borg won the first set 6-4, and Bjorn came from behind in the second to serve for the match at 6-5. But another dramatic chapter in the rivalry quickly unfolded after McEnroe struck a winning lob and a drop volley to square the set.
At 3-all in the tie-breaker, Borg's forehand pass was signaled good by the base linesman, but Umpire Mike Lugg, an Englishman sporting a handlebar moustache whose handlebars had apparently fallen off, overruled him, giving McEnroe the point and a 4-3 lead. Then a funny thing happened. Borg frowned. He strolled to the chair. He...yes, he...disputed the call. (Quick, phone That's Incredible.) With the crowd booing and whistling, Borg quietly implored Lugg to ask the linesman about the call. Lugg would not Lugg ordered Borg to continue play and put the 30-second clock on him. Borg stood his ground. Lugg awarded a delay-of-game penalty point to McEnroe.
"I couldn't believe it," McEnroe remembered thinking. "Just imagine what the crowd would have done to me in that situation."
Dick Roberson, chief of the Grand Prix supervisors, came out to talk to Borg. Still Bjorn stood by the chair. Lugg gave McEnroe a second penalty point. Then, almost imperceptibly, Borg glanced at his mentor, Lennart Bergelin, in the stands. Bergelin slowly stood up and sat down again. Borg walked out to resume play.
"I was very mad, very disappointed," he said later. Did he think about quitting? "No."
Behind now 6-3 in the tie-breaker, Borg banged an out-ball to lose the set. But immediately he became much more aggressive. Both men served two love games in the third set, and McEnroe once purposely drilled the ball into the crowd to give Borg a point another call had denied him. Junior then bowed deeply as the cheering swelled. There were no break points as the great rivals battled to yet another tie-breaker.