From Inside Tennis, a season on the pro tour by Peter Bodo:
On the day of the finals, transparent clouds travel through a sky of china blue. The air is crisp and cool, as if the seasons have changed and left a single autumnal day in honor of the past champions.
At the entrance to the Tribune présidentielle, the box reserved for honored guests and dignitaries, Juliet Mills sits at a table examining a complex seating chart, wondering where to put Belmondo, and Princess Caroline and Philippe Junot. Mills, a former film star, is now in charge of the celebrated at Roland Garros. Each day she attends to their needs and works out a seating arrangement as assiduously as a debutante giving her first dinner party.
On the floor of the stadium, a Signal Corps bad in khaki uniform plays brassy music as the galleries slowly fill. Runners of crimson velvet crisscross the court beneath the feet of ball boys who stand at parade rest holding a panoply of flags. A single strip of carpet provides a path from the court to the end of the stadium, up the stairs of the presidential box, and into a portal lined with royal guards in uniforms of black and red with burnished helmets.
The stadium is full now; the band is silent. Some 18,000 spectators await the start of the ceremony.
Suddenly the guardsmen raise their trumpets and sound a brisk fanfare. All eyes are fixed on the portal as the announcer intones the name of Henri Cochet, the seventy-six-year-old Frenchman who was the first champion of Roland Garros, and triggers an avalanche of applause.
Next comes René Lacoste, le crocodile, who turned his inelegant nickname into a trademark known throughout the world. Then Jean Borotra, the bouncing Basque, who smiles and waves casually, hardly pausing as he takes the stairs with the sprightly step that earned him his nickname. As he joins his fellow musketeers before the French standard, the parade of champions continues chronologically, from Peggy Vivian to a beaming Don Budge. There is Hoad, the blond bull wearing a mile-wide smile, looking as robust and invincible as ever; Darlene Hard Wagoner in a blue polyester pantsuit with a loud geometrically patterned top; Manuel Santana, the virtuoso, dapper and compact in a blazer of navy velvet.
The speaker reaches 1973 and the name Bjorn Borg. There is a moment of anticipation and then Borg appears, his hair clean and long and golden in the sun, his body lean and angular in the track suit that fits him like a second skin.
And then 1977 is called. Vilas steps out to a warm welcome. Vilas takes the stairs with his head bowed and proceeds to where Borg and Panatta stand chatting. He realizes his error and looks for the Argentinian flag. When he arrives before it, he exchanges a few words with his neighbour, Santana.
Borg held a long first game to start the match, then broke Vilas when the defending champion made three puzzling errors and double-faulted the love-40 point. Vilas broke back, but Borg won the next four games running to take the first set, 6-1, in a mere thirty-seven minutes.
Vilas is strong and Vilas is steady. Borg is his equal in that, but Borg is also frightening quick, and his consistency is neither defensive nor aimed at prolonging a point; it is merely an aggressive tactic to prepare him for the killing stroke. Errors from Vilas’ backhand begin to come with disturbing frequency. Each time he misses, he throws the racquet from his left hand to his right just as he concludes his follow-through, then snaps his left palm upward in a gesture of despair. It is meant only for the eyes of Tiriac, who sits courtside, just behind Vilas’ chair, sending a multitude of subtle hand signals to his protégé.
Absorbed in the match, Tiriac resembles some prehistoric turtle, with his broad, curved back and the sad, impassive eyes set deep in his head. The eternal cigarette cupped in his right hand is raised every other moment to the mustache that frames his mouth like an inverted horseshoe. When Vilas looks over, Tiriac will nod or just blink, but the blink seems loaded with profound implications.
Tiriac is no help today, for Borg is really on form, and Vilas has not mastered the attacking game well enough to force his opponent out of his rythm. After Borg wins the second set, also by 6-1, Tiriac advises Vilas to attack in the third. In desperation, Vilas begins to hit his flat first serve. He takes the initiative. He attacks, but he is tentative and flounders like a man caught in a bad dream. The dividends are higher now, and after surrendering an early break that gives Borg breathing room, Vilas manages to hold on and take three games. But he cannot stop Borg when the Swede serves for the match at 5-3. When Vilas hits a volley out to give Borg the match, the winner drops his racquet and slowly, almost as if he is yawning, raises his arms high above his head. He turns toward the players’ box, and for the first time in the match, he looks at his coach, Bergelin, and his fiancée, Marianna.
When Vilas sat down to the reporters, the light in his eyes expessed relief. “He gave me no chances to win. He made no mistakes. I think he played much better than me today,” he admitted.
Vilas was aked if so routine a loss to Borg was discouraging, and whether he felt that more work would ultimately give him a better chance against his Swedish rival. “I think I have to improve my play on all surfaces, learn to do more things,” he replied. “He is quicker, but I am stronger. Today, we were not out there so long that I could take advantage of my strength.” He continued, in a voice that was softer and less mechanical, “There are many disadvantages with my kind of thinking, but I have also one big advantage – I am not happy.”
“Why not?” a woman reporter asked kindly.
“It is impossible. When you are happy … you are dead.”
When Borg appeared, his hair hanging in thick, wet strands about his ears and shoulders, he was smiling.
“Well, how will you celebrate your third French title?”
“There will be a big kiss tonight,” Borg quipped.
He was surprised the match went so easily and felt that he won all the important points – the deuce and 30-40 points that support a win. After the first two games, he knew that Vilas did not have the confidence to beat him: “I see it in his shots, you know, and also in his face. He looks to me a little bit afraid. He become very nervous when he makes a mistake, like he cannot believe it, you know? Like somebody is doing something very bad to him.”
Someone suggested that Vilas might have a complex about him, but Borg would not confirm the theory. However, he allowed that his easy wins over Vilas in their last few matches had put him at a distinct advantage.
A late arrival asked Borg if he was doing anything special that evening.
“Yes in one hour I go on plane for Belgrade to play Davis Cup,” said the champion.
“You will have a champagne party, maybe?”
“Yeah.” Borg laughed. “Maybe on the plane.”
On the way out, I asked Borg what he would like to do on the private jet waiting at nearby Charles de Gaulle airport to take him to Belgrade.
“Sleep,” he replied.
From Inside Tennis, a season on the pro tour by Peter Bodo:
Borg is broken in the first game. In the second, Panatta gets the benefit of a close call at love-30. “Now the robbery begins,” an Italian friend of mine whispers. However, Borg breaks back. At 15-30 in the next game he suddenly strikes his head with his racquet and walks calmly to the sideline. He has been bitten just above the right eyebrow by a bee. When they continue after a five-minute delay, Panatta runs out the first set, 6-1, by taking the pace off the ball at every opportunity. He has lured Borg into the forecourt, the place the Swede likes least, with succinct dropshots from the backcourt. Panatta has served well and volleyed precisely, ending many points before Borg could force him to rally. It is a highly conceived strategy.
Each player holds his first service game of the second set. In the third game, Panatta departs from his touch game and begins to rally with Borg. He is promptly broken. In the next game, a crucial one for Borg, he reveals the remarkable fifth gear that none of his opponents possesses. He hits heavily top-spun balls that pound the clay and hop out of reach. Each successive stroke has more pace and less margin of error; after three or four such shots, Borg is in the groove and soon he finishes the sizzling rally with the easy placement offered by the final, desperate retrieve of his opponent; Borg leads, 4-1.
At break point against Borg in the next game, Panatta casts himself into the air and strikes a miraculous forehand drop volley off the frame, just wide of the sideline. but there is no call of out; borg looks at the spot where the ball fell, as does Panatta. The umpire makes a quick gesture indicating the ball was good. Borg bows and quickly rolls the spare ball in his hand to the umpire’s stand. He begins to change court. This act of complete surrender is so disconcerting that Panatta starts to hedge. He asks the linesman to come out and verify his call by examining the mark. The official insists that the ball was good.
Thus far the crowd has been subdued. Borg’s reaction to this first loaded moment has been so swift, so cool and effective, that there is no reaso no challenge him. A puzzled murmur runs through the galleries. Borg’s acquiescence has either disarmed the audience or intimidated it. The lean blond has self-control that would be a credit to the most accomplished of assassins.
Back in the match at 4-2, Panatta returns to his coy, artistic game plan and plays brilliantly to hold for 3-4. The crowd rallies to him now; the chant rises, swamping the cheers of a small cluster of Swedes high up in the cheap seats. But Borg is right on the mark. He wins the next two games to even the match at a set-all. Panatta clings to his strategy through the third set, but a flurry of forehand errors he cannot afford against a player like Borg gives the set to the Swede, 6-1.
Panatta‘s ambitious strategy continues to pay dividends in the fourth set; when he breaks Borg in the fourth game, the crowd is on its feet again, singing his melodious name. Another stunning game gives Panatta a 4-1 lead. passive play by Borg increases Panatta’s margin to 5-2 but Borg breaks him for 3-5, with the italian serving for the set.
Borg waits in the deuce court. He spits air onto his hands four or five times and swoops into his crouch. His feet shuffle on the clay as he rocks from side to side. Panatta is about to toss the ball for his first serve when Borg pulls up and raises his palm. He bends over, picks up a coin tossed from the stand, and flips the money to the foot of the umpire’s stand. He goes back into his crouch and proceeds to win the game at 15, striking unanswerable winners as he glides across the court.
Now Borg can serve to even the fourth set, but he falls behind 30-40 on the strength of Panatta’s volleying. At break point, Panatta hits an imperfect dropshot that Borg reaches easily and sends toward the far baseline with a vengeful forehand. Panatta gets to the ball and sends a backhand skimming over the net, past Borg, and deep into the backcourt. In or out? An agonizing moment of hesitation by the linesman is broken when Borg nods toward Panatta and turns his back to the net, signifying that he is yielding the point, game, and set to his opponent.
The final set begins with Panatta holding the first two service points, but then Borg strikes, swiftly as a thunderclap. He wins eight straight points; when his heavy strokes are not pounding the clay, he walks with his head bowed, his hips swinging in cadence to his fastidious steps. He is putting greater effort into his serve now.
Borg playsa few unexpected drop shots and touch volleys in the next game, but Panatta, imprevious to them, holds with relative ease; The players change ends, with Borg leading 2-1/ Borg leans forward, bounces the ball, and plans his serve, but then he pulls up. He takes a few steps toward the sideline, stops, and inspects the court. He heard the light clink of a coin striking the clay, and he will not be content until he locates it. When he does, he carries it over to the umpire’s stand. Then he approaches Bergelin, who is standing in the portal just behind the umpire.
“If they throw more things, I will stop to play,” he says.
The Swede does not return to court immediately. He stops by his chair, towels off carefully, and takes a long slug of San Pellegrino. He moves at his own pace, oblivious of the crowd. When he goes back out, he loses the first point, but then reels off the next four to lead 3-1.
Panatta will have to play catch-up for the rest of the match, with Borg clinging to his margin with conservative tennis. He does not exert himself much against Panatta’s serve and holds his own so deftly that he keeps the tension from accumulating. Working with the precision of a surgeon, he cuts the heart out of the contest and leaves the crowd with no target. He has not uttered a superfluous word or given the Roman crowd the least sign that it does, in fact, exist. Soon he leads, 5-3.
It is match game, Panatta serving. The score reaches 40-15, but then Borg turns it back. He wins three straight points to reach match point, but the talents that have sustaiened Panatta are still intact. Four times the Italian has advantage, four times Borg brings the score back to deuce. The crowd is tense and breathless – there will be plenty of time to shout should Panatta hold the game and force Borg to serve for the match at 5-4.
But it will not happen. Eleven points go by with Panatta holding off Borg’s onslaught with a series of flying volleys, delicate dropshots, and crackling ground strokes. but then, at yet another deuce, he double faults, presenting Borg with his second match point. Panatta strikes a good first serve, but Borg’s pendular backhand snaps it up and spits it back, crosscourt.
The Italian’s backhand volley strikes the top of the net and dies there. Borg has won the title.
From Inside Tennis, a season on the pro tour by Peter Bodo:
The Italians are aware of the suspicion that surrounds their championships; consequently, the difficult task of keeping a match under control is not always entrusted to native umpires. The Panatta-Higueras confrontation will be chaired by Bertie Bowron, a sixty-nine-year-old Englishman with ruddy cheeks and a head of hair as white as a cloud. Bowron is a chipper, independent fellow who has a mailing address in London and lives in his camper throughout most of the spring and summer. He follows the European tournament trail, welcome at every stop because he is a paladin of the game who accepts only expense money for his services; but his impeccable reputation did not prevent Ion Tiriac from grabbing him by an ear and dragging him around the locker room at the Foro one year because of a misunderstanding during a match.
Great expectations fill the Campo Centrale, for Panatta and Higueras are Davis Cup rivals, and their nations hold that competition in highest esteem. The Spaniard cannot match Panatta’s elegance; his service motion is studied and downright unathletic. he prepares for his forehand with a baroque, looping backswing; overall, his style suggests that he is impersonating a world-class player, but his steadiness and accuracy are uncanny. All Higueras lacks is that vital spark of genius that the deity breathes into the most attractive players.
Panatta is nervous again; the grim expression on his face implies that some battle is raging within him. He wins two points in the first game, but then only four more as Higueras, snapping top-spin balls at the lines and passing deftly, takes a 5-0 lead in the first set. The crowd broods as its hero wins only nine points and no games in the twenty-five-minute first set. As Panatta prepares to serve the first game of the new set, the familiar chant is taken up with mounting enthusiasm.
But Panatta cannot respond. When he hits a forehand too deep to give Higueras the first game, he bounces the racquet on its head twice as if to bang some sense into it. Soon it is 3-0, and the prospect of the Spaniard’s winning three love sets become a possibility. Emboldened by Panatta’s struggles, Higueras begins to push his luck. Although he is not a confident attacking player, he begins to press forward at every opportunity. In some players, aggressive play reflects a failure of nerves leading to a premature desire to end the match. With Higueras, a proficient baseline tactician, eagerness undermines his strength.
Panatta finally gets a game, breaking Higueras for 1-3. But the Spaniard breaks back and holds to take a 5-1 lead, four points from a comfortable margin of two sets to none. Panatta holds his service for 2-5, despite three set points for Higueras, and he brushes aside another pair of set points as he breaks Higueras again. When Panatta holds service at love, Higueras finds his margin reduced to a single game. He leads 5-4, and as he prepares to serve the crucial tenth game, the crowd is humming.
Again Panatta attacks. Higueras chips a backhand pass into the net, and the Campo Centrale erupts. The tumult increases through the next point, as Panatta follows a sliced backhand to the net, and it reaches another climax as Higueras misses the passing shot. Now the Spaniard is chagrined. He accepts two balls to serve, but the clamor will bot subside; shaking his head in disgust, he rolls the balls to the baseline.
“Silenzio” Bowron implores. But the crowd has engaged Higueras, who has been proud enough to stand up to it. Now it provokes and bullies him, accepting no plea and giving no quarter.
“Silenzio, cretini!” Bowron commands. The noise abates as the crowd ponders this insult.
Ultimately Higueras gets to set point again, only to see Panatta’s volley eturn the score to deuce. tHe Italian is playing brilliant tennis under extreme pressure. Higueras strikes a good serve, but a let is called. He shakes his head and questions the call, knowing that there is no hope of reversal. Still, he wins the point with a delicious lob that Panatta hits just wide with a backhand overhead. “Vantaggio Higueras.”
All semblance of restraint vanishes from the Campo Centrale when Higueras squanders yet another set point, his sixth, with a forehand error. Jeers and exhortations cascade onto the court. Again Bowron pleads for silence, but this time “per carita” – for pity.
Panatta gains the advantage when Higueras hits a defensive volley and then makes dismal work of Panatta’s equally tentative lob. Boos and whistles echo in the stadium as Higueras prepares to serve; he finally hurls his racquet to the ground, whirls, and hammers his arm at the galleries. This obscene gesture seals his fate. Within moments, a cola can strikes the clay at Higueras’ feet, and a resounding chant of “Buffone! Buffone! Buffone!” rises over the still pines.
There is nobody lingering over coffee on the charming patio now, nobody strolling by the field courts to sample doubles matches or the women’s semifinals. The awful lust of the crowd rules; the uproar has magnetized the Foro, drawing spectators as if they were steel shavings. Excited youths are perched in the trees and even on the shoulders of the statuary.
In the ensuing mayhem, Panatta’s coach takes it upon himself to seize the public address system and plead for silence. He is jeered off the court. Eventually Higueras is allowed to serve. He fends off the break point when Panatta earns another game point with a fluky forehand that skips off the net cord for a winner.
As Higueras starts his service motion, a one-hundred-lira coin strikes him on the ankle. The Spaniard holds up play to summon the tournament referee, who has been lingering near the sideline, to remove the coin. This further angers the crowd.
Higueras’ game has gone to pieces; blinded by rage, he denigrates the lineage of the entire audience and nets an easy backhand approach shot to surrender the game for 5-all in the second set. Panatta wins the next game at fifteen holds a set point of his own against Higueras’ serve. The first ball Higueras delivers is a fault, but Bowron awards him two serves because of the noise. Higueras wins the next point for deuce. The tumult accompanying his subsequent fault again forces Bowron to award the Spaniard two serves. But this time, the referee steps from the shadows to overrule Bowron.
A moment of discussion between the two officals ends with Bowron announcing, “Grazie”. He waves at the crowd and climbs down from the chair, refusing to brook his violation of the rules, which clearly state that the tournament referee can only intervene at the request of the umpire. Bowron is replaced by a Roman, but there will be no more controversy. With the only man who stood for him gone, Higueras capitulates; his two feeble backhand errors give Panatta the game and the set, whereupon Higueras stalks to the sideline, yanks his jacket from the back of his chair, and quits the court.
There is pandemonium in the passageway beneath the stadium. Tournament officials gesticulate wildly at each other. As Bowron tries to make his way through the tunnel to the clubhouse, Higueras catches up with him. “I want to shake your hand,” the Spaniard says. “I want to thank you because you did the right thing.”
Kjell Johanssen, the number-two Swedish player, is in the locker room when Higueras barges through the door and cries, “I had to quit or else I would have killed somebody!”
Later Johanssen said,
“Higueras is the most honest guy in the world. There’s no way he would act the way he did without the best reason. It’s unbelievable! Panatta lost every match, but he’s in the final!”
He shook his head but he couldn’t deny Panatta his due. “It’s incredible how well that guy can play under pressure, isn’t it?”
Breathless reporters and amazed officials continued the debate in the pressroom. Marty Mulligan of Fila stopped by, as excited as the rest of the company.
“I know Borg only plays here because of his contract with the shoe company, but if this kind of thing happens tomorrow, he won’t come anymore. This tournament may be finished forever.”
1978 was the first year the US Open was played at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows after having been organized at the West Side Tennis Club venue in Forest Hill since 1915. It was also the first time the tournament was played on hard courts: it was originally played on grass until Forest Hills switched to Har-Tru clay courts in 1975. Jimmy Connors is the only player to have won the US Open on all three surfaces.
Extract from Inside tennis – a season on the pro tour by Peter Bodo and June Harrison:
By late August, summer weighs heavily on the city of New York; each day seems like one long tepid breath drawn until dusk, then exhaled slowly through the night. The US Open is about to begin.
The USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, Queens, has been completed just in time to host the tournament that will henceforth call it home. A boardwalk leads from the subway to the new facility, which is adjacent to Shea Stadium, the sprawling home of the New York Mets and Jets. This boardwalk crosses over a subway yard, where hundreds of cars sit idle, covered with graffiti. The walk is lined with flags: American flags. Over seventy of them, counting those on top of the new Louis Armstrong Stadium. There isn’t a foreign standard in sight, because the USTA is bullish on the American role in international tennis.
The Americans leaped on the treadmill of professionalism faster than their international counterparts. As part of its massive attempt to popularize the sport, the USTA abandoned the West Side Tennis Club in nearby Forest Hills, a site redolent of tradition and all the genteel qualities associated with tennis. Although the stadium at Forest Hills held 13,500, the USTA deemed it to small. The hordes that descended on the 10.5 acres of the West Side Tennis Club created impossibly crowded conditions. Besides, parking facilities were inadequate, and this meant a great deal to some people. When the club rejected expansion proposals in 1977, USTA president Slew Hester decided to move the tournament to a newer, bigger home.
Louis Armstrong Stadium, the centerpiece of the National Tennis Center, is a bowl of epic proportions; its sheer sides give over 20,000 spectators a dizzying view of the main court. But the finest court at the site is in the grandstand, which nestles against one side of the stadium in much the same way that the Number One Court nestles against the Centre Court at Wimbledon. Sunken about ten feet below ground level, the court is surrounded on three sides by seats for about 6,000 spectators, who lean in over the players like aficionados around a bullring.
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.”
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.”