1978 US Open champion Chris Evert

Extract from Inside tennis – a season on the pro tour by Peter Bodo and June Harrison

The women’s final is played first, in bright sunshine. Shriver shows no sign of nervousness; although she is broken early in the first set, she hangs on and reaches 3-4. In the next game, when she hits a desperate backhand volley at full stretch at 30-all, her opponent is set up for an easy forehand pass off the high bounce. But Evert‘s stroke is tight, and the ball falls into the net. Shriver has break point. It goes to deuce, then break point again. Twice, three times, four times, five – Evert is nervous, but Shriver is incapable of ending the game. It goes on to three more deuces, and this time it is Shriver who ignoes the advantage points her opponent holds. The last deuce is reached with a portentous double fault. Evert is beginning to buckle under the strain of the long game. An overhead winner gives Shriver break point again. Evert serves; Shriver returns a backhand slice to her forehand corner. At the decisive moment, Evert decides to lob instead of pass down Shriver’s backhand line, but she scoops the ball up short, and Shriver drills it into the opposite corner. She has broken back to even the match 4-4 after a game that contained twenty points.

Shriver has been capitalizing on Evert’s lack of speed. As long as she can control the pace of the match by ending points quickly, she is in good shape. When she lapses, Evert forces her to deuce before the younger girl holds for 5-4. Then Evert holds her own service at love.
In the next game, Shriver is at the point where she can smelle it. The scent makes her nervous. She loses the first point but hits a service winner for 15-all. She attacks again during the next point, but indecisive lobs answered with tentative overheads result in Shriver putting a crosscourt backhand wide. She cuts her next volley too fine, and Evert has two break points at 15-40. She loses one to a fine, deep serve on the backhand side, but gets the break when Shriver puts her first volley of the 30-40 point into the net. It is the classic error of an overeager hand, to which even the most seasoned players succumb now and then. Evert holds the next game easily to take the set 7-5.

A break in the long ninth game of the second set gives Evert the championship, 7-5 6-4. It is her fourth consecutive US Open title.

Evert and Shriver met the press together. Pam looked fresh as a rose, while Chris seemed haggard. Shriver admitted that things had changed for her with the Navratilova match. When she went out to buy a newspaper that morning, people on the street recognized her and wished her good luck. She felt she played well, despite feeling rushed.
In retrospect, she would have tied to slow down the pace of the match without prolonging the actual points.

“It all seemed to go by too quickly,” Shriver said.

Evert felt vindicated. She had won the tournament even though it was no longer on clay. She had also driven a wedge into Navratilova‘s grip on the number-one ranking, and the year was not over yet. The major title had been captured. She was proud of the intensity with which she responded to big points and the match in general. It proved that the competitive spirit was still there.

Later was I saw her in the lounge, she said:
“I know I’ve played better finals. It would have been a lot easier to play Pam in the second round. But I really needed this for my confidence, because it’s been a real struggle with little help from anyone since Wimbledon. When I first played Tracy there last year, I felt like crawling into a hole before the match. I mean, I had everyting to lose. It was like that his time, too, but I felt less uptight, and that was nice.”

Shriver had been adopted as the darling of the crowd. Evert had seen this happen too often to complain, but there was one thing she felt she had to clear up.

“If I was a normal schoolgirl or a housewife or something like that, I’d probably go for the underdog, too. But I know what it’s like for the winners. I know what real pressure is. Now I always find myself rooting for winners, because I know how tough it is to be one.”

Virginia Ruzici

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.”

Extract from On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker

In the first-ever meeting between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, the 19-year-old McEnroe defeats the 22-year-old Borg 6-3 6-3 in the semifinals of the Stockholm Open in Sweden. The loss marks the first-ever professional loss for Borg to a younger player.
The McEnroe-Borg rivalry becomes one of the greatest in the sport as the two titans square off 14 times in all -each player winning 7 times. The two play in four memorable major finals, McEnroe winning 3 of 4 at the 1980 and 1981 US Open and at Wimbledon in 1981. Their epic final at Wimbledon in 1980 is regarded as one of the greatest matches of all-time, Borg winning his fifth consecutive title in a 1-6 7-5 6-3 6-7 8-6 epic.
McEnroe wins the Stockholm singles title the next day, defeating fellow American Tim Gullikson 6-2 6-2 in the final.”

Check out what McEnroe had to say about that first match. Extract from his autobiography Serious:

“Some people compare Sampras to Borg. In my mind, there’s no comparison. Even though Pete is one of the greatest players, of all time, Borg, by his presence alone, gave a lot back to the game. His story was incredible too: Who could ever have imagined such a player coming out of Sweden, a country of only eight million people, with a sub-Arctic climate?

He was the best athlete I’ve ever seen on a tennis court – I don’t think people realize how good an athlete he was. And the fact is, he had to be, because his game was bizarre, in a way: running back and forth, well behind the baseline, hitting ball after ball after ball until an angle opened up or the other guy missed. It was so side-to-side, compared to my forward-forward-forward, but Bjorn was so fast he could make up for it.

The first time we played – in the semifinals at the Stockholm Open in November 78 – was a perfect scenario for me, because it was on fast indoor, which wasn’t well suited to his game, particularly against me. I also think he felt pressure playing me in his hometown, in front of a Swedish crowd who’d gotten excited about the game because of him.

The win in Stockholm was a huge win for me – I was the first player younger than Borg to beat him – but it didn’t make me think one bit less of Bjorn. I just felt that I was with the big boys now – and this was the official coronation.”

And 34 years later, the two tennis legends still provide entertaining matches. (photos by Tennis Buzz, Optima Open 2012).

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe

John McEnroe

Bjorn Borg