Roland Garros 1978: Virginia Ruzici defeats Mima Jausovec
From Inside Tennis, a season on the pro tour by Peter Bodo
The women’s final is played in the late afternoon. For Mima Jausovec, her match with Virginia Ruzici feels anticlimatic, especially after the stirring ceremony during which she beamed and bounced out to take her rightful place among the former champions (a parade of champions took place before the final). She is plagued by a sluggishness of spirit as she struggles to find form before an almost disinterested crowd, with one of her best friends playing the match of her life across the net.
Ruzici is pounding her extraordinary forehand all over the court, swarming over the ball with her aggressive, spidery style. Jausovec, who is only five foot three and weighs 120 pounds, is hard pressed to stay in the rallies. The pace prevents her from setting up for her shots properly. Both women have primarily forehand players, but Ruzici is more successful in keeping the ball on her opponent’s backhand side.
Ruzici takes the first set 6-2, and breaks Jausovec for a 2-1 lead in the second. She serves the first point of the next game and hits a forehand that seems clearly out during the rally. But there is no call, and Jausovec distractly drives the next ball into the net. She turns around and looks at the lineswoman, who returns her stare with impenetrable eyes. Jausovec looks at Ruzici, but if her friend has any feeling about the ball, she keeps them to herself. Jausovec just shrugs and walks to the baseline to receive service. The match is all but over. The contested point and Ruzici’s failure to respond to her inquiry have left Jausovec hurt and bewildered. It is unlike Mima to quit, but she cannot challenge Ruzici. She loses 6-2 6-2.
When it was over, I hurried downstairs to catch the contestants. Jausovec had already gone up to the locker room, but Ruzici had just come off the court, bearing an armload of yellow roses. Her eyes were wide with joy, and her words poured forth like :
“I have lost to Mima all the time before. This now makes me feel very, very good. I can’t believe it! I have won Roland Garros. It is too much for me” she cried.
I felt compelled to ask about the incident that seemed to have had so signifiant an impact on Jausovec’s spirit. All Ruzici had to do was acknowledge her friend, even if she did not agree with her. Instead, she had just lowered her eyes and moved to the other side of the court to serve the next point.
Ruzici’s answer rang with anxiety and conviction.
“I couldn’t give her that ball. I was on the other side. It was impossible to tell about that ball! In a final like this, you have to forget about friendship. A point like that, you cannot give it away. It is the one I could have lost the whole match with in the end, if I gave it away.”