Wimbledon: less-knowns creeping up
With the seeds having been scattered in the wind of competition, the men's singles tournament here started the second and final week with an unfamiliar look everywhere except at the very top.
The three leading men of this and most other recent years -- five-time champion Bjorn Borg and his perennial American challengers John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors -- were still there. But otherwise the names were mostly different this time around as play reached the quarterfinal stage.
Two complete newcomers had gate- crashed the party -- Tim Mayotte from Springfield, Mass, and Rod Frawley from Australia. Also in the final eight was Australia's Peter McNamara, better known as a member of last year's champion doubles team. And completing the group were Florida-based South African Johan Kriek and Vijay Amritraj of India -- fine players both, but not nearly so well known as several of those who had already fallen.
The list of women in the quarterfinals came out more as expected. Only Andrea Jaegar wasn't present, having fallen to Yugoslavia's small but sturdy Mima Jausovec. There were still four Americans in the last eight, however -- Chris Evert Lloyd, Tracy Austin, Martina Navratilova, and Pam Shriver -- along with Jausovec, Hana Mandlikova of Czechoslovakia, Wendy Turnbull of Australia, and Virginia Ruzici of Romania.
Lloyd remained the firm favorite, but the experts found it very difficult to choose between Navratilova and Mandlikova as second choice.
Among the men, neither Borg nor Connors had lost a set yet during the tournament. McEnroe lost one to Stan Smith, but thereafter had run out an easy winner.
Borg, the great Swede who always seems to rise to the occasion here, came through a difficult but delightful game against his American friend and practice partner Vitas Gerulaitis, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6. He had set his face against a five-setter, recalling, no doubt, their titanic struggle in the semifinals four years ago -- a match most observers felt was among the best ever seen here.
There were several very bad calls in this year's encounter. Gerulaitis once, as he passed the umpire's chair, said with heavy irony, "Whatever you say, sir. You guys never make a mistake." Borg, when it was his turn, raised his eyebrows and let the trace of a smile flicker on the corners of his lips.
Service line judges and umpires on four main courts this year have the aid of the infrared "magic box" monitor first used last year. Does this sometimes cause officials to take their eyes off the line? A ball that is very far out may not show up on the monitor and can be missed if the eyes are on the box, or so it seems.
Connors thinks not only that bad calls are more frequent but that officials around the world are adopting an unfortunate and somewhat arrogant attitude against those who question a call.
This, of course, doesn't excuse outbursts like McEnroe's when he called the umpire an incompetent fool and then, when the referee arrived at his request, called him a name that cannot be printed in a newspaper.
The consequent fine and threat of suspension kept McEnroe tight-lipped, white-faced, but quiet in all his matches up to the second week. But for a time it clearly affected his play.
Borg meanwhile appeared to have lost -- or was keeping in reserve -- some of his power.
His first engagement at the start of the second week was with McNamara, who beat Connors to win the German title in May. It should be no easy task. "Well, " shrugged the defending champion, "each match gets tougher from here on in."
Mayotte, too, could claim a victory over Connors (in San Francisco last fall). He was to meet the virtual unknown, Frawley, while Connors had to deal with Amritraj and McEnroe was to face Kriek.
The experts still expect another Borg- McEnroe clash in the final, but Bjorn, they agree, has a harder road to travel to get there. Connors, in very good form, is one who stands in his way.
In the women's quarterfinals it will be Lloyd vs. Jausovec, Austin vs. Shriver, Navratilova vs. Ruzici, and Mandlikova, who has won a lot of fans by her fine play here, vs. Turnbull.
There was surprise, and not a little chagrin, when the Wimbledon Committee seeded the 19-year-old Mandlikova second -- ahead of such better known names as Austin and Navratilova. But the Czech star, who already has won both the Australian and French titles this year, showed such artistry when she defeated one of Britain's last two hopes, Anne Hobbs, that opinions began to change.
Hana was neat, cool, authoritative, and determined. Anne tried and tried, and the hair brushing over her forehead got damper and damper. She never gave up, but she just didn't have the game to win.
Jo Durie, too, gave Pam Shriver a hard match, but with no players at all in either last eight now -- and no British man anywhere near -- Great Britain has to think hard both about the organization of the game here and the physical training of its young players.
It's a hard fast, athletic game now -- a marathon run at speed -- particularly on Wimbledon's grass. It needs hard, fast, as well as talented athletes if they're to reach the top.