Play of today's stars, honors for champions of old add up to a memorable Wimbledon
''This is the most marvelous Wimbledon I've known, and I've been coming for 30 years,'' said a spectator reflectively, eating an ice cream in the bright sunshine and surveying the new statue of Fred Perry by the main gates. (Perry of course, was Britain's last men's Wimbledon champion - 1934, '35 and '36).
Defending champion John McEnroe was about to meet 19-year-old Australian Pat Cash for a place in the final.Second-seeded Ivan Lendl faced a thunderous clash with No. 3 Jimmy Connors for the other place.
The women's competition, meanwhile, has come down again to Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert Lloyd, who will meet in the final for the fourth time Saturday. Navratilova, seeking a third straight title and fifth overall, defeated Kathy Jordan 6-3, 6-4 in her semifinal after Evert Lloyd, who has won Wimbledon three times but lost all three finals she played against Martina, set up another showdown by routing Hana Mandlikova 6-1, 6-2.
McEnroe and Peter Fleming appeared to be steaming through the men's doubles again. Navratilova and Pam Shriver were doing well on the women's side. And in the mixed doubles, Martina and her coach Mike Estep had won a lovely match against young Carling Bassett and Greg Holmes.
McEnroe on court had behaved perfectly. Only Lendl had been warned for abusive behavior, harassing one of the most experienced women line judges and threating to boycott the umpire in the future.
The weather had been almost perfect, although a storm has lurked in the Atlantic for several days waiting, one hopes, until the last week of Wimbledon is over.
There have been record crowds right from the first day. And according to the letters in the press, millions of people have reorganized their days, cleaning house at the crack of dawn and shopping one minute after opening time, so as to be able to watch the matches on TV.
Above all the tennis has been of a tremendously high standard.
There was also a splendid press conference, which most of the world probably missed, when old-timers Kitty Godfree and Alice Marble were victorious over the world's media 6-0 6-0 6-0. Mrs Godfree was sound, sensible and convincing while Miss Marble, talkative, amusing, and authoritative, returned each difficult question the media served with unplayable speed.
Mrs. Godfree won the women's singles and the mixed in 1924 and 1926. Miss Marble, who ''created the women's game in its aggressive modern style'' according to official Wimbledon historian Alan Little, won the singles, doubles and mixed in 1939.
They reckoned that either of them could have given Martina a match to remember, for, Miss Marble pointed out, they too would have shared the great advances in equipment, facilities, training, and techniques that modern players enjoy. And of course the continuous tournament play which helps top players maintain such a remarkable level of excellence.
''We were athletes too, you know,'' said Alice Marble. ''Certainly,'' agreed Kitty Godfree. They made a wonderful doubles partnership at question time and kept the media entranced for two or three times as long as the normal Wimbledon press conference does.
Up to semifinals day, McEnroe had refused to accomodate the press this year. Quite rightly too. For instead of the champion it has been the press that has had to be warned and disciplined by the All-England Club.
Persistent intrusion into the players' private lives and harrassment outside players' homes and hotels brought a stinging rebuke in the form of an official statement issued to all members of the media.
''The club has also decided that it is to conduct a full reappraisal of press credentials which will be used for allocating press accreditation in future years,'' the media were told.
The main culprits are elements in the British press whose sensational probings and ''revelations'' could do great personal damage, particularly to the young. They deserve so much better of the press.
Every tournament has its unexepected stars. Carina Karlsson of Sweden, defeated by Evert Lloyd on the Centre Court, delighted the crowd not only with her tennis but with her sunny Scandinavian personality. This represents by far her biggest money win, and she is giving a large part of it to a campaign which she runs to help the world's hungry.
Paul Annacone of New York won (STR)12,500 ($17,350) in the first tournament he qualified for, and it took an aggressive Jimmy Connors to defeat him.
Yes, it's a marvellous tournament here this year.