At Wimbledon two ex-champs are recrowned
There was more than one famous victory won here this 1982 as Jimmy Connors beat John McEnroe to take the men's singles title again after a break of eight years, following Martina Navratilova's victory in the women's championship, in which she repeated her 1978 and 1979 triumphs over Chris Evert Lloyd.
The exclusive All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (with only 375 full members) was also victorious in spite of rain, hail, thunder, lightning, strikes , and the absence of five-time champion Bjorn Borg and pretender to the tennis throne Ivan Lendl.
What's more, although dethroned by Connors 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 1981 champion John McEnroe won over his own sometimes wayward temperament. The All-England Club awarded him the distinction of honorary membership, an accolade denied him when he was champion. After a rough, tough, but never overheated final, McEnroe said to Connors, ''That's how it ought to be when we play each other.''
And Connors, even before the final, had said of the tournament, ''The players have enjoyed it much better this year. Many changes have been made. And the whole atmosphere is different.''
The Connors-McEnroe clash was a strange, up-and-down, unpredictable, nail-biting and eventually magnificent match which lasted four hours, 14 minutes , the longest Wimbledon final of all time.
One felt that McEnroe had not been quite at his best at any time during the tournament. But Connors certainly had. No other player threatened him. In the semifinal he swept aside burly Australian Mark Edmondson in three increasingly powerful sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.
But against McEnroe, Connors' assurance sometimes deserted him. Serving at 5 -4 in the third set with the game score at 30-all he double-faulted twice in succession, lost the game and soon afterwards the set.
McEnroe's game was also in-and-out. Leading two sets to one he let Connors in again. Then both players reached a peak at last in the final, clinching set.
This was men's tennis at its fiercest and fastest and most astonishing. It was a pity that there had to be a loser.
In the women's final, settled by a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 score, Navratilova's power and confidence brought her through what was also an uneven match. It also brought her an extra prize of half a million dollars with the prospect of making that a million if she now also wins the US Open.
The prize, part of the Playtex Challenge, is offered for any woman winning four designated tournaments on different surfaces in any one year. Martina has won now on carpet, clay, and grass, and will be favorite to win on cement in New York. A victory there in September would give this naturalized American citizen her first US Open championship.
''It hasn't sunk in yet,'' Navratilova said a few minutes after her Wimbledon final. ''But I'd rather give up half a million dollars than the title here.''
Evert Lloyd, having evened things in the second set, immediately broke Navratilova's service in the decider to lead 2-1. And then quite suddenly the match slipped through her fingers. As the defending champion became tentative Martina became dominant, not allowing Evert Lloyd to win another game.
But the real thrill in the women's section was the gallant battle toward the top by 38-year-old veteran Billie Jean King, a six-times singles champion with 14 other Wimbledon titles to her credit. Billie Jean very nearly made it into the final once again, losing a three-set semifinal to Evert Lloyd after upsetting Tracy Austin in the quarterfinals.
Against Evert Lloyd, she narrowly lost the first set in a tiebreaker, then came alive in the second, serving, smashing, lobbing, cutting, dropping and topspinning as if giving a talented pupil a lesson. She won the set 6-2 and all things seemed possible.
In the third set Chris got to 5-2 and 40-30. She served for the match. She lost the point. It was deuce. Then, abruptly, a deluge broke over the court. The players were off for 41 minutes. When they returned King made it 3-5. Evert Lloyd double-faulted, went to 0-30. Could King turn the tide again?
Regaining her control and precision, Evert Lloyd denied her the chance. She finished the match with a lob of perfect height and length and Billie Jean was gone.
In the men's doubles McEnroe had to play yet another final one hour after finishing his match with Connors. Perhaps not surprisingly he and Peter Fleming went down before the power partnership of Australians Peter MacNamara and Paul MacNamee, the doubles winners of 1980 who had yielded to McEnroe and Fleming in 1981. The Aussies won 6-3, 6-2.
Though McEnroe's bid to earn both a singles and doubles crown the same year failed, Navratilova accomplished the feat, teaming with Pam Shriver to beat fellow Americans Anne Smith and Kathy Jordan in the women's doubles, 6-4, 6-1.
Smith managed to win the unusually concentrated mixed doubles competition with South Africa's Kevin Curren. Because of rain postponements, they had to play four matches on the tournament's final day, beating Britain's John Lloyd, Chris's husband, and Australia's Wendy Turnbull 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 as the sun set on another Wimbledon fortnight.