While John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg were getting upset last week in a tournament in Tokyo won by Vince Van Patten, Ivan Lendl was making tennis history half a world away. With little fanfare, the 21-year-old Czech defeated Sandy Mayer 6-3, 6-3 in the finals of the Lacoste Cup in Cologne, West Germany for his fifth Grand Prix victory in as many weeks, eclipsing Jose-Luis Clerc's record four wins in four weeks in the U.S. last summer. With Borg now planning a six-month layoff, Lendl appears to have his game in shape to challenge McEnroe as the world's top performer. They'll probably meet in the Volvo Masters tournament in mid-January in Madison Square Garden. But Lendl will also have to prove he can beat Jimmy Connors, something he's never done.
In the meantime, instead of trying to extend his streak, Lendl is taking this week off. In one sense, Clerc's four-week streak was more impressive than Lendl's, coming as it did during tennis' peak season and ending only with his defeat in the U.S. Open. On the other hand, all of Clerc's wins occurred outdoors and in the U.S., while Lendl's were achieved both indoors and outdoors and in four different countries. And whereas Clerc was playing only on clay, his favorite surface, Lendl performed both on clay (the Madrid Grand Prix and the Spanish Championships in Barcelona) and on synthetic surfaces (the Swiss Indoor Championships, the Fischer Open in Vienna and the Lacoste). In winning 26 straight matches against the likes of Guillermo Vilas, Eddie Dibbs, Brian Gottfried, Clerc himself (in the finals of the Swiss Indoors) and Mayer, Lendl also won an astonishing 55 of 59 sets.
MAKING THE GRADE
Academic requirements for high school athletes in California, as elsewhere, tend to be lax. Under the rules of that state's high school athletic federation; students need only receive passing grades in four courses during the previous grading period to be eligible for interscholastic sports. This means that an athlete carrying six courses could receive four D's and two F's and still be eligible.
So laughably low are these minimums that most California schools have taken it upon themselves to set more stringent standards. For example, jocks at San Benito Joint Union High in the northern California city of Hollister must have completed at least 20 units of C work or better in the grade period preceding the season. When Ted Williams, now an assistant at UCLA, was football coach at Compton High in Southern California, he made things tougher still. Many Compton students come from deprived backgrounds, yet Williams required his players to maintain a C average; a D, in other words, had to be offset by a B. "We sold them on the idea they were to get an education," says Williams.
Also sold on that idea was George Rosales, a member of the football coaching staff at John Burroughs High in Burbank who got wind of Williams' relatively exacting grade policy. In January 1980 Rosales became head coach at Burroughs and, on the theory that academic standards at the predominantly middle-class school could be even higher than those at Compton, he let it be known that he wouldn't settle for a C average. He decreed that any player who fell below a C in any course would have to sit out a game; this meant that a D and four A's wouldn't be acceptable. Rosales' unique grade policy was introduced in early 1980 and grades were checked every five weeks—four grade checks all told. A study hall program was established for those who wanted tutoring. Even with that help, 32 players fell below C, at least briefly, during the school year. All of them sat out the opening game of the 1980 season against Canyon High.
The decimated Burroughs High Indians won that game 13-0 and had a 10-3 record last season and reached the semifinals of the Northern Conference 3A playoffs. Rosales' message meanwhile appeared to be getting across. With the study-hall program continuing through the 1980-81 school year, 21 Burroughs players, 11 fewer than a year earlier, were obliged to sit out this season's opener against Canyon High, which the Indians nevertheless won 13-7. The same all-C policy has now been adopted by Burroughs' soccer, baseball and basketball teams. The crackdown on grades has received high marks from both parents and players, who realize that when Rosales says, "We expect a lot of the kids," he's referring to something of more enduring importance than blocking and tackling.
The title of Tom Wolfe's 1979 bestseller on the Mercury space project, The Right Stuff, referred to that elusive quality that divided people, as Wolfe put it, into those who "either had it or...didn't." In an aside during an interview on modern architecture, the subject of his latest book, From Bauhaus to Our House, Wolfe told PEOPLE'S Eric Levin that there was one area in which he himself didn't have it. Wolfe said that as a young man in the early 1950s he aspired to be a major league pitcher and took part in a tryout camp conducted by the New York Giants near his Virginia home.
"After two days, they cut the field down to about 40 prospects," recalled Wolfe. "I didn't make the cut, and I couldn't believe it. I had every pitch—many more than most pitchers had. At that time very few pitchers had a slider. I had a slider. I had a sinker and a screwball. I was a righthander, by the way. So I went to this scout and I said, 'There must be some mistake. My name's not on this list. Don't you remember me? I've got a slider; I've got a sinker; I've got a—' And he said, 'Yeah, I remember. You've got a lot of cute stuff. But son, there's only one thing we're looking for, and that's a pitcher that can tear the catcher's head off with a fastball. You get one of those, come on back."