Dramatic Wimbledon tourney wins 'best ever' plaudits
Wimbledon '80: some champions won; some lost. Bjorn Borg says he wants to be known as the greatest tennis player of all time and he got nearer that goal winning the men's singles championship for a fifth consecutive time. But to do it, he had to play, what he readily admitted, was the toughest match of his Wimbledon career.
It look five sets, and nearly four hours, and certainly one of the longest and most dramatic tie-breaks in the history of tournament tennis to give Borg his unparalleled fifth title, with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, (16 points to 18), 8-6 victory over second-seeded John McEnroe.
As McEnroe said of that fifth set, "It was an uphill battle for me all the way." And of Borg: "He never gives anything away. I really tried hard. I've never played a greater match, but at this rate I don't know if he's ever going to lose here."
In his semfinal victory over Jimmy Connors (6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4), McEnroe not only argued with the umpire, but exchanged insults and rude gestures with his opponent. And Connors, for his part, didn't keep his cool. He, too, began playing the crowd, and the tennis suffered.
Yet in the final on Saturday, McEnroe won back the crowd he had annoyed the day before. He played Borg's game -- all tennis and no mouth. It was a magnificent display of discipline and concentration.
Of McEnroe, his worthy and disciplined opponent, Borg graciously said, "He played a great match. He is so quick. He never gives up. No matter what the score is, he just keeps trying."
Up until the men's singles final match, it was the women at Wimbledon who had held the spotlight. Their matches were being called "the best ever at Wimbledon." In fact, it was a tie-breaker in the second set which settled the women's championship, won by Evonne Goolagong (Cowley) 6-1, 7-6 (7 points to 4) over Chris Evert Lloyd. It was a fitting finale, pitting old rivals, with Evonne, the 1971 champion, securing her second singles crown. The triumph gave her the distinction of being the first mother since Dorothea Chambers in 1914 to win the title.
Just after her semifinal win, Evert Lloyd was asked about the upcoming match with Goolagong. Her reply was prophetic: "She is a moody player and I have not lost to her in the last six matches, but if she is going well, she is unbeatable."
And "go well" she did -- Evonne was in command from the opening point although Lloyd rallied in the second set to extend the match to 1 hour, 33 minutes.
Evonne's strategy: "I stayed back quite a lot as her passing shots are so deadly." And, "I was determined to win today. I was getting fed up with being the runner-up."
In both 1972 and 1975 she had fallen to Billie Jean King in the finals, while losing the 1976 championship match to Evert.
The women's matches were all graciously played. There was tension, but not temper.
There were disputes, but not rudeness. There were hard-fought points, but generous acknowledgement of winning points. There was power, but more than power, there was strategy.
In the semifinals, Evert Lloyd played a memorable match against Martina Navratilova. They used every blade of grass on the court, and blew chalk dust with winning shot after winning shot. Chris lost the first set 4-6, and won the second 6-4. In the final set her serve was broken by Martina. She broke back. She lost her next serve, and broke back again. And then it was 5-2, Chris's favor.
Martina served to save the game, the set, the match, the opportunity to retain her championship for a third consecutive year.
At deuce, Lloyd got match point after a long rally. A near ace by Navratilova sved the point. And back to deuce five more times. Characteristically it was a superbly placed overhead lob which gave match point to Lloyd. Final score: 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Wimbledon is not just superb singles matches. Tracy Austin, with brother John, assuaged her singles semifinal loss by winning the mixed doubles against the very strong pair of Australians, Dianne Fromholtz and Mark Edmondson (4-6,7- 6,6-3).
Another pair of Australians, Paul McNamee and Peter McNamara, raced up to the final never losing a set: that is, until they came up against Americans Stan Smith and Bob Lutz. It was doubles at its best -- rifleshot volleys ricocheting from racket to racket with breath-holding rapidity. The Aussies took the title in four sets: 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.
The women's doubles saw the elimination of King/Navralitova in the semifinals to the eventual winners, the young Americans, Ann Smith and Kathy Jordan, who beat Rosie Casals and Wendy Turnbull, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.