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Even more discouraging for Borg, when he could fight his way to the net, McEnroe would flip a lob for a winner, which is exactly what everybody says you should do to McEnroe, though neither Borg nor anybody else seems to try. Also, "they" say, slug service returns, press him, make the points short so he can't get any rhythm and play more to his forehand. Nobody seems able to do those things, either.
Vitas Gerulaitis, seeded way back at 15th, fared best against his fellow New Yorker, winning two sets in the semis. Gerulaitis and his game have been away somewhere soft recently, and when he upset third-seeded Ivan Lendl in the round of 16, he was so delighted he blew kisses to the crowd and crowed, "I'm back! I'm back!" as if we all might dust off the yellow ribbons that had been in cold storage since the hostages returned from Teheran. Gerulaitis, a wraithlike figure, whiter-than-white even down to his racket handle, had his speed back and ran holes in a swirling wind that otherwise tickled McEnroe's service tosses, and he stayed even on serve until 1-2, 15-love in the fifth set.
But then a dispute arose over whether a spectator had disturbed play by chucking an errant ball back onto the court. McEnroe further discombobulated things by breaking a racket string over CBS's vulgarity-catcher microphone. When the ship at last got under sail again, Gerulaitis lost his serve, and McEnroe held his at love. Boom—like that, five minutes and it was 4-1, all over. "The guy was getting so nervous," Gerulaitis said wistfully. "Definitely he was nervous."
So shaken was McEnroe that he withstood nine break points in that set. The nervous guy also survived despite dropping opening sets to the likes of Juan Nunez and Ramesh Krishnan—or Rubbish Krishnan as the scoreboard spelled the little fellow's name for the first half hour of the match. McEnroe was even a temperamental zephyr compared with the typhoon we had been assured would blow in. He actually seems to have learned not to take it personally when his countrymen dare root against him. Americans aren't anti-American. Merely anti-king. McEnroe is getting so good he's taking all the fun out of things.
"We're overstocked with people who do things well," said Gene Mayer shortly before he defaulted from this third straight Grand Slam event. "Especially in New York. You just walk down the street here and you see five champions of something. Nothing is special here." Well, before Sunday no man had won three U.S. titles in a row since Big Bill Tilden won six 56 years ago. There are champions and there are champions.
Pick 'em out.
The women's results were heavily influenced by atrocious seeding that placed Hana Mandlikova fifth, even though she had reached the finals of the last four Grand Slam tournaments, winning two, and had lost to no one but the eventual winner in the last six majors. This inequity was compounded by the draw, which pitted Chris Evert Lloyd, the top seed, against Mandlikova in the quarters.
Meanwhile, in the impoverished bottom half of the draw, Austin had to deal with no one of consequence. In the semis, for example, she faced 11th-seeded Barbara Potter. Pottsy the Preppie, who last year graduated first in her boarding-school class, is as bright and beguiling a pro as there is. For one outing she donned a garish yellow-and-black bumblebee ensemble—"I prefer variety in my apparel, my game and my love life"—but Pottsy's groundies only float, never sting, and Austin sashayed into the finals without the loss of a set.
By contrast, barely a week into the tournament, Evert Lloyd faced Mandlikova in the first showdown of the Open. New York hasn't hosted such a Tuesday-afternoon clash of titans since the Subway Series of yore, and Evert Lloyd came primed. It's wise to remember that she was only momentarily training her sights on Mandlikova. Her primary target is Helen Wills Moody's record seven U.S. titles. Evert Lloyd has five, and because "maybe two years is all I have left," victory in every match at the Open is nothing short of imperative in her eyes.
Mandlikova had needed a somewhat dubious call on a match point against her to survive an opening-round encounter against Mary Lou Piatek, but she had grown stronger thereafter, and the swelling chorus that attributes to her the elegance of Bueno and the grace of Goolagong was beginning to be heard over the jet engines above. Cut high, dashing, her stone face bound by a tied headband, its tails flying in back, Mandlikova seems more Apache than Czech—Apache of both sorts, warrior and dancer. Maturity is still the issue, but she's more at ease all the time, and something of a milestone in her development as a touring pro took place early in the tournament when she had her first dream in English.