With the Wimbledon crown -- a mellower McEnroe?
Will success make John McEnroe? The hope and expectation of all tennis fans here are that it will, as the new Wimbledon champion, dethroner of King Borg, has flown back home under threat of a $10,000 fine for bad behavior and a possible suspension.
McEnroe, perhaps diplomatically, had failed to show up at the traditional champions' dinner at the Savoy Hotel and lead the opening dance with the women singles winner, Chris Evert Lloyd. Mrs. Lloyd explained that she would not make two speeches, because "I haven't got john's vocabulary."
But it did seem to some observers that after his dramatic 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4 win over Bjorn Borg, much of McEnroe's resentment at the very Britishness of Wimbledon -- the air of class and privilege, the bowing to royalty, the (to him) persnickety rules and regulations, the (to him) stern officials, the uneven line-judging -- had drained away.
In the final he had kept his cool. He would not have won if he hadn't. And he understood that.
Had he lost, there was a distinct possibility that he might not return to Wimbledon.Now he must. If McEnroe wishes to carve his name deeply in the records of the greatest tennis championship of them all, he must come back and win again. and, if he can, again and again and again.
William Renshaw's record run of six successive singles titles began in 1881, exactly a century ago. H. L. Doherty's five were won in the first decade of the 20th century. In those days the final was a challenge match. The holder didn't have to play through all the tournament. So Borg's five in a row represent the "modern times record."
Rod Laver won four titles, but not in successive years. Fred Perry won three in succession. Big Bill Tilden won three. John Newcombe won three.
Is John McEnroe good enough to match these great players? That's the question.
As a tennis player, yes, of course, he is. There can be no doubting that. His serving and volleying in the thrilling final have probably never been surpassed, particularly the power and consistency of his service.
Borg, one felt, had never been quite at his very best during this Wimbledon except in one match, his glorious five-set semifinal against jimmy Connors. This was one of the most splendid matches ever seen on Center Court. Borg had to come back from two sets down to win, and against an opponent who furiously gave just about everything he had.
But borg has no excuses. He played the best he could. The final was as close as it could be, he said, played in good spirit between the two best tennis players in the world. Now, says Borg, his eyes are on the US Open in September, the only great tournament he has never won.
Borg lost this match because he was out- classed in the tiebreakers, and, when leading 4-1 in the third set, allowed McEnroe to close up, save three set points, and go on to win the set. By then McEnroe felt he was going to win.
The women's final had been almost "no contest."
The Hana Mandlikova of whom so much had been expected after her superb display against Martina Navratilova in the semis never showed. She seemed overawed.
Lloyd was in commanding form. As the world's No. 1 woman player, after winning twice and then being runner-up three consecutive times, she was determined to secure recognition again as queen of Wimbledon (watched this time by the Duke and Duchess of Kent, traditional patrons of Wimbledon, and Lady Diana Spencer, Princess-of-Wales- to-be).
Among the women, Helen WIlls Moody holds the record with eight championships, Billie Jean King coming next with six.
There are many here who think that when Evert Lloyd's reign is over, Mandlikova, not yet 20, will succeed her. Hana's game has everything, except as yet, resolution. She should copy Lloyd, McEnroe, Borg, and Connors, who never let up.Whoever is going to beat them, well, they've got to play at the very peak of their abilities.
McEnroe this year is twice a champion. He and Peter Fleming won the men's doubles, beating Bob Lutz and stan Smith 6-4, 6-4.
Navratilova and Pam Shriver won the women's doubles, beating Kathy jordan and Anne Smith in the final 6-3, 7-6.
In the mixed doubles, old hands Frew McMillan of South Africa and Betty Stove of the Netherlands upset john and Tracy Austin 4-6, 7-6, 6-3.
The junior boys' championship went to Matt Anger of Pleasanton, Calif., and the junior girls' to Zena Garrison of houston.
And the lessons of Wimbledon 1981?
* Wimbledon will have to expand again and possibly extend the championships.
* Much more must be done to raise the basic standard of Great Britain's own tennis.
* Players must learn more diplomacy in questioning calls.