French Open, Paris
May 26, 1980; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $400,000; Surface – Clay
The New York Times compilation
Bjorn Borg was a king of tennis in the late 70s and early 80s, he reached the peak of his stellar career at Roland Garros ’80. Prior to the event his 48-match winning streak was snapped, and in Paris another streak – this time extended to 21 wins – was initiated. During the fortnight, no-one even won five games in a set against him (!), Borg’s coach Lennart Bergelin admitted: ”I think we’ve reached the limit.” Two amazing Grand Slam comebacks of Jimmy Connors are often mentioned (Pernfors ’87, P.McEnroe ’91), but they wouldn’t have made if he hadn’t won a match in Paris that year against Jean-Francois Caujolle.
Vitas Gerulaitis stood alone in the auxiliary arena at Roland Garros stadium today, waiting for a player named Peter Elter to take his position on the other side of the net. Gerulaitis was about to play his first match since losing unexpectedly last week to Thierry Tulasne, a 16-year-old Frenchman, in the early rounds of the Italian Open. Elter, a West German listed 101st in the ranking was late for the match. Five sets and almost four hours later, Gerulaitis walked off the court exhausted, having prevailed 1-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. “I’ve never heard of the guy before.” said the fifth seeded American, “Just like last week, it took a while to figure out what the guy was doing. If you have never seen the guy before, it makes it a bit difficult“. It was no surprise when John McEnroe, seeded second behind Borg, ousted Patrice Dominguez 7-6, 6-0, 6-0. McEnroe is here for the first time since 1977. Jimmy Connors had a tougher time, winning from Adriano Panatta of Italy, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6. After a cool and cloudy weekend, the courts were not only too slow, but also they were in poor condition. “I was coming in on shots I definitely would win points on in the United States,” Gerulaitis said, “But the guy was passing me left and right. The courts are not in great shape by any stretch of the imagination. The bounce is much higher and the clay is dry and slippery. I was watching Connors and Panatta, and they were getting about three bad bounces per rally”. When told that McEnroe had described the courts as fast, Gerulaitis replied: “Talk to him after he comes back from a five-set match and see what he says”. Thierry Tulasne, who was a sensation at the Italian Open, played the first match of the day. He won the first two sets from Bernard Boileau of Belgium, 7-5, 7-5, and was ahead 4-3 in the third when Boileau withdrew because of a muscle strain. In Rome, Tulasne stunned in easy straight setters Sandy Mayer, Gerulaitis (first wins at the main level), and almost did the same against Thomas Smid. Bjorn Borg opened the defense of his title with a routine 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Alvaro Fillol of Chile. Guillermo Vilas still savoring his triumph in the Italian Open, eliminated Jose-Luis Damiani, Uruguay’s top player 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. “It was good to play Fillol in the first round,” Borg said, “The first and second rounds are always the most difficult. You aren’t used to the atmosphere, you don’t know exactly how your games is.” Borg came here after intentionally missed several tournaments in Europe and the United States: “I had two weeks off before Roland Garros, and I think that’s the right preparation for me. I’ve been practicing about four hours a day”. Asked about his thoughts of playing Vilas again, Borg said: “There’s no way you’re going to keep winning all the time. That’s the only match I lost this year. The pressure will be the same as it is for any tournament.” Borg referred to a 3-6, 6-1, 1-6 loss at Nations Cup, which ended his 48-match winning streak!
Yannick Noah advanced to the round of 32 today by ousting Jose-Luis Clerc 6-4, 6-7, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. The match had been suspended by darkness last night after three sets. Noah, 20 years old and the top ranked professional in France, was unseeded here. Only four days ago he lost to Guillermo Vilas in the final of Italian Open. “It’s good for me to beat big players in the big tournaments” said Noah, “It’s easy to beat some good players in little tournaments, but winning a match like this, makes me confident”. Clerc is ranked 19th, and he was named as 16th and final seeded player here after withdrawal of Gene Mayer, originally seeded sixth. Noah had mixed emotions about performing on centre court before a volatile partisan crowd. “It’s different here” said Noah, who won the French junior title in 1977. “I don’t think it’s any harder or easier, but it’s different. You know, the crowd, they want you to win, but if you lose, they don’t know you anymore”. Noah and Clerc will meet on the same court five years later, and Noah wins again, after very similar scoreline: 6-1, 6-7, 6-4, 4-6, 8-6. Rain interrupted play, but it didn’t prevent Bjorn Borg from moving a step closer to a fifth French title. The Swede defeated Andres Gomez 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Borg’s opponent in the 1979 final, Victor Pecci was beaten by Belus Prajoux, a Chilean. The Pecci-Prajoux match began late yesterday, and was suspended because of rain after Pecci lost two sets and was 3:2 down in the third. When play resumed today, Pecci fught back to win the third set, surviving a match point on a cross-court volley. Prajoux won the tie-breaker in the fourth set when Pecci’s cross-court return of serve sent wide, making the finals core 7-5, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6. He rallied briefly, but then lost the next to games without taking a point. After dropping the first two sets and trailing 5:2* in the third set, Jimmy Connors survived a match point and then incredibly took control to defeat Jean-Francois Caujolle of France 3-6, 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, 6-1. “I’ve never come back like that before”, said the American. Caujolle upset him eight weeks ago at Monte Carlo (7-6, 6-2). Both are 27 years old and left-handed. Down by 30/40 in the 8th game of the 3rd set, Connors served the match point and seconds later rushed to the net. Caujolle sent a passing shot to the American’s forehand side, but the ball went wide of the line. Connors won the next 2 points, came out on top in a series of disputed line calls in the next game and then gradually fought back. At the end he was flying, taking 17 of the last 19 games. “I started waiting longer for the shorter ball,” said Connors, “And I started making more mistakes. I think I was getting better hitting my shots firmer, and I thin he got a little bit discouraged. That’s why I won the fourth and fifth sets so easily”. Strangely, the crowd was often against Caujolle, who frequently interrupted play by disputing calls. Before the match took its decisive turn, the spectators at centre court were cheering enthusiastically for Connors. Paolo Bertolucci won second dramatic 5-setters in a row, in the first round he defeated Hank Pfister 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 7-5; in the second round Bernie Mitton 5-7, 6-3, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3.
Eddie Dibbs, No. 7, bowed to Raul Ramirez 6-3, 7-5, 6-2. Dibbs, appeared to lose interest in the second set as he fell behind 5:2. Top-seeded Bjorn Borg continued the quest for his fifth French title by eliminating young Pascal Portes of France, 6-3, 6-0, 6-1. The morning was cold and rainy and the matches were delayed about three hours. The sun started to come out in late afternoon, but the rain and wind soon reappeared, forcing postponement of some later matches. Among them was Guillermo Vilas‘s match with Buster Mottram of Britain, which was halted with 2:2 in the 3rd set, Vilas won it 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. Borg and Portes were also bothered by the blustery conditions. ”It was very difficult,” said the Swede, ‘‘but I was handling the wind much better than he. I was trying to get the ball into the middle of the court, but he was going more for the lines.” Borg has had an easy tournament so far, and may find it difficult when faced with a more formidable opponent. But that won’t happen until the semifinals, in which he is likely to play Vilas. The seeded players in Borg’s quarter of the draw – Victor Pecci, Jose Higueras and Victor Amaya – all have been eliminated. ”I have had three easy matches so far and I don’t know if that’s a good thing,” said Borg, who needed only 1 hour 35 minutes to dispose of Portes. ”It might make it more difficult later.” His next opponent is Balazs Taroczy, the No. 1 Hungarian who has a good clay-court record. He reached the last 16 by defeating Heinz Gunthardt of Switzerland, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. Rain also halted Ivan Lendl‘s match with Brian Gottfried after each had won two sets (after the resumption, Gottfried prevailed 2-6, 7-6, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 having saved a match point at 4:5 in the 4th set), and Harold Solomon was stopped by rain at 3:2 in the 2nd set against Van Winitsky, when that match was called (Solomon won 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4). Paul McNamee, a 25-year-old Australian known primarily for his accomplishments in doubles, took John McEnroe to a tie-break four times en route to eliminating the second seeded player 7-6(6), 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(2). In the fourth set, with McEnroe 6:5 ahead, McNamee saved set point seven times. They went to deuce 10 times before before the Australian tied the set and set up the biggest upset of the $617.000 tournament. The match lasted 4 hours 18 minutes, but McNamee said he was quite prepared to continue. “I was physically ready for a fifth set” he said, “I’m fairly fit player”. McNamee added: “I was able to hit a heavy topspin into his backhand. I think that’s why I won the match. I had a feeling that I was a little bit stronger than him”. It was first all-tie-break 4-setter in Roland Garros history. Grand Prix officials said that McEnroe had been fined $750 for objectionable remarks and gestures during his loss yesterday to McNamee, and $500 for having refused to attend a news conference after the match. Jimmy Connors was fined $1,000 for obscene language on Wednesday. Connors eliminated Antonio Zugarelli 7-5, 6-4, 7-5. “I’m either going to be in great shape, or it’s going to kill me” said Connors referring to the physical exertion to which he has been subjected this week.
Weird walkover – controversy around a Guillermo Vilas–Manuel Orantes match, which wasn’t played despite an eliminated guy could have theoretically entered the court: According to Christian Duxin, the tournament director, Vilas arrived at Roland Garros Stadium in the early afternoon complaining of a stomach illness. A doctor advised that he have a ”washout” but warned that the Argentine would need at least an hour to recover, which meant he would not be prepared to play until 3:30 P.M. The Barazzutti-Peter McNamara match that he and Orantes were to follow seemed likely to last until then, so the officials told Vilas to go ahead with the treatment. The problem arose when Barazzutti won more quickly than expected, in straight sets (6-4, 6-2, 7-6), and it was not yet 3 o’clock. Orantes said that he was in the locker room, ready to play, but he acknowledged that he was never officially called for the match. ”The moment I was ready to appear on the court, they told me it would be delayed,” said Orantes, who waited the mandatory 15 minutes, then demanded that Vilas be defaulted and walked out. ‘‘I said that I wanted to play right away. I know that Vilas is a big name here and they want to protect him. But it’s a terrible consideration, especially in this tournament.” Meanwhile, Vilas appeared on the court at about 3:20, waited a few minutes and then left. His coach, Ion Tiriac, contended later that Orantes should be disqualified. The crowd was kept waiting for about two hours while the officials worked to resolve the situation. They finally decided to reschedule the match for tomorrow, explaining as follows: Orantes was within his rights to ask for the default after waiting 15 minutes, as the rules specify, but Vilas was not guilty of any wrongdoing because he had been officially granted the delay. Orantes insisted, however, that on principle he would not play tomorrow, saying: ”What would happen if the French association said to the Czech association, ‘Why don’t we wait two weeks to play the Davis Cup matches because Yannick Noah is injured?” He referred to the next round in the Davis Cup, scheduled to begin a week from Friday. Officials said that if Orantes refused to play, he would be scratched. Orantes, generally respected by his peers for his sense of fairness and gentlemanly behavior, was defaulted in the $617,000 French Open tennis championships when he failed to appear for his rescheduled fourth-round match with Vilas. Meanwhile, Bjorn Borg, who has not yet been tested, defeated Balazs Taroczy, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. That he handled the Hungarian, who is considered a formidable clay player, so easily was indicative of the Swede’s form. Harold Solomon caught Brian Gottfried on one of his poor days and came off with a quick 6-0, 6-1, 6-3 triumph in the all-American match. Wojtek Fibak advanced by defeating Paul McNamee 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. McNamee saved three match points in the third set tie-break. Hans Gildemeister defeated Raul Ramirez in a tremendous battle that ended at dusk, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 10-8. Jimmy Connors took on the last French hope, 20-year-old Yannick Noah, who had bad luck. He slipped while trying to return a dropshot in the second set and wound up doing what looked like a twisted split as he skidded along the wet clay. After taking four minutes to recover, he limped back onto the court, but he had to retire in pain with the score 7-5, 6-4 in Connors’s favor. Later it was learned that Noah had strained a thigh muscle.
In quarterfinal action Vitas Gerulaitis of the United States defeated Wojtek Fibak of Poland, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, and Jimmy Connors eliminated Hans Gildemeister of Chile, 6-4, 6-0, 6-0. Gildemeister started well and was serving at 4:3, 40/0, at which moment Connors went into high gear. The two winners will meet in the semifinals. Fibak kept Gerulaitis stretching for 3 hours 40 minutes. Afterward the Pole said, ”We both like to attack and we both like to take advantage of each other’s backhand.” The two are known to be on unfriendly terms. ”I think it’s a pity that we don’t have better relations,” said Fibak, when asked about the feud, the origins of which were unclear. ”I think he’s a good player and an intelligent guy. I wish our relations were better because it looks like we’re going to be playing each other for a few more years.” Gerulaitis did not seem as eager for a reconciliation. ”If he hadn’t shaken hands with me at the net, it wouldn’t have bothered me a bit,” the American said. ”That’s one guy I really enjoy beating.” Playing in the intense heat of a late-afternoon sun, Harold Solomon upset Guillermo Vilas and reached the semifinals of the French open tennis championships today. They battled for three and a half hours on the clay, which is not unusual in matches between the two baseliners. Solomon’s 1-6, 6-4, 7-6, 7-5 victory moved him into a duel with Bjorn Borg, who defeated Corrado Barazzutti of Italy in a routine exchange from the baseline, 6-0, 6-3, 6-3. Vilas, who might have still felt weak after his treatment two days ago for excessive stomach gas, had said he was prepared for a lengthy match. He and Solomon are similar in style, preferring to stay back and execute precise ground strokes, wait for the error or the opportunity to put away the short ball, and go to the net only on the sure approach shot. ”You know you’re going to be on the court for three or four hours and that you’re going to run a lot against him,” said the Argentine southpaw. Solomon, who remembered having played Vilas once from 11 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon here at Roland Garros Stadium (5th round in 1972, Solomon won 3-6, 8-10, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4), was making mistakes in the first set. He frequently volleyed long and slammed easy shots into the net. ”I played so badly in the first set,” said the short, stocky American, who was runner-up in 1976, ”I couldn’t hit a ball back in the court. But I was able to hang in there and things eventually fell into place.” Down by 3:5 in the third set, Solomon saved a set point, won the game with an ace and went on to tie at 5:5. He broke serve in the 10th game without allowing Vilas a point. Then he took a 6:5 lead with 4 more straight points. But Vilas tied the set, winning the 12th game on a neat drop shot. They went into the 12-point tiebreaker, which Solomon won mainly on his passing shots. With the fourth set at 2:2 and Solomon having just won a point to put Vilas behind, 0/30, the Argentine pointed out to the umpire that the ball in play was cracked. It is a common-enough situation and the rules simply call for the point to be replayed, which the umpire decreed. But the spectators put up such a commotion with their hooting and booing when Vilas got ready to serve that he finally served an intentional double fault into the net to restore the score at 0/30. ”It was unfortunate,” Solomon said, ”because by the rules it should have been played over.” Vilas accepted the situation with resignation. ”Whatever happens, happens,” he said. ”You just try to do your best. In 1977 everybody liked me, and this year, well, I don’t know.” Vilas, who is 27, a month older than Solomon, won the title in 1977. Asked if his stomach still bothered him, Vilas answered: ”I don’t want to use my stomach problem as an excuse. I don’t like to default in a match, I like to finish. I try to do my best and I’m happy because I did”. In the other quarterfinal Borg, who has not been extended in the tournament and is seeking his fifth French title, took the first set in just 20 minutes, allowing Barazzutti only 7 points.
With an effective first service compensating for mistakes, Vitas Gerulaitis outlasted Jimmy Connors through five sets requiring 3 hours 57 minutes today and reached the final of the French open tennis championships for the first time. In defeating Connors, 6-1, 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4, Gerulaitis earned another chance to play Bjorn Borg, whom he has never beaten. The Swede won more easily today, eliminating another American, Harold Solomon, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. Solomon played most of the match with a muscle spasm in his back. Although Connors and Gerulaitis made a lot of mistakes, they produced a good semifinal match by executing their best shots with precision. Connors was having trouble with his forehand, frequently sending his ground strokes long and volleying into the net. In the first set, he won only one point in the last three games. His backhand passing shots, however, were deadly, and he scored many points with accurate lobs when Gerulaitis was at the net. Connors won the second set but not before wasting three set points. Gerulaitis missed two set points when he was ahead, 5:3, in the third set, and missed four more in the next game when he was leading, 5:4. Connors was able to take the set by winning the tiebreaker. ”I was a little annoyed at that time because I was playing so sloppily,” Gerulaitis said. ”But I knew that if I hung in there I could come back so I didn’t let it upset me after the set was over.” Gerulaitis won the fourth set comfortably, breaking Connors’s service twice in taking a 4:1 lead. Then the 25-year-old from Kings Point, won the match by serving his 13th ace after a series of dramatic points in the final game of the fifth set. Ahead, 40/0, Gerulaitis lost three straight match points, volleying into the net and going to deuce. After beating Connors with a volley for the advantage, Gerulaitis double-faulted and missed a fourth match point. But two points later his ace put him into the men’s final, which no American has won since Tony Trabert in 1955. Connors found it hard to concede defeat even after he had lost the final point. ”I felt I could have won today,” he said. ”Even when I was down, 0-3, in the fifth, I didn’t feel that I was out of the match.” Asked to be specific about the problem with his forehand, Connors answered: ”It’s difficult to say. You can’t play and watch at the same time.” While Connors said he thought the quality of the match was high, he acknowledged: ”I played the fourth set like a bum.” Of Gerulaitis, he said: ”He didn’t do anything spectacular. I led, two sets to one, and should have come out grinding it out.” In challenging Borg for the championship, Gerulaitis will be facing a player who has not lost a set here this year and who has won 119 of 142 sets in 43 matches at Roland Garros Stadium. The only player who has beaten Borg here is Adriano Panatta of Italy, who won the championship in 1976. Solomon said he was in too much pain to talk to reporters after his match, so he sent his coach, Paul Cohen, who has been on the road with Solomon for the last year. But Cohen offered few excuses. ”I don’t know if people know what they’re watching when they see Borg,” Cohen said, ”but they’re watching the greatest player in history on clay.” Borg, who became 24 years old today, played a semifinal match with Gerulaitis here last year. Gerulaitis was trounced, 2-6, 1-6, 0-6, and left the grounds without even taking a shower. Realists do not expect the result to be much different on Sunday, when Borg will be trying for his fifth French title in seven years and the first prize of $53,000. Only one player, Alvaro Fillol of Chile, has won as many as four games in a set from Borg here this year.
Bjorn Borg, coping with the carefully designed game plan of his opponent, became the first player to win the French open tennis championship five times today, scoring a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory in the final over Vitas Gerulaitis. A crowd of 18,000 at Roland Garros Stadium saw Gerulaitis continually try to get Borg away from the baseline by returning short and using drop shots. The tactic seemed to be working in the first set, when Gerulaitis won three straight games after being down by 5:1. But after his initial awkwardness, Borg turned Gerulaitis’s plan against him by slamming winning volleys and chasing down his opponent’s lobs. Gerulaitis had a chance to tie the set when he was receiving serve with Borg ahead in games, 5:4, but down in points, 15/40. But the Swede, relying on his two-handed backhand, adjusted and took the next four points and the set. The next two sets were easier. ”I was trying to go shorter, which is how you have to play him,” said Gerulaitis, who never has beaten Borg. ”Lob him more and ruin his rhythm.” Borg, who said he was tired during the first set and became nervous when Gerulaitis was catching up, acknowledged that he did not know what to expect from his opponent, even though the two, who are good friends, had played 17 times previously (14 according to ATP) and had practiced regularly. ”The last two or three times we played he has tried to change his game,” said Borg, who will play for Sweden in Davis Cup matches this week against West Germany before going to England to prepare for Wimbledon. ”It’s difficult to know what he is going to do.” Borg won the top prize of $53,000 without losing a set, just as he won the 1978 French title. His opponents this year, however, were less than formidable because the seeded players in his quarter of the draw were eliminated early. In the semifinals, Borg defeated Harold Solomon, who had upset Guillermo Vilas in the previous round. The victory enabled Borg to surpass the record of Henri Cochet, who won four championships since the tournament became international in 1925. Cochet, now 78 years old, presented Borg with the winner’s trophy today. Asked if the former champion had any congratulatory remarks, Borg said: ”Well, he didn’t look too happy. He said, ‘Well done,’ that’s all.” Gerulaitis was not as sharp today as he was in the semifinals on Friday when he defeated Jimmy Connors in five sets. His service was weaker and less accurate, and he was volleying too short. He double faulted twice on game points. After winning the first set Borg quickly took a 3:0 lead in the second. Gerulaitis, with a flurry of winning volleys, broke the Swede at 3:1, but Borg resumed control. In the third set Borg dropped only five points in his four service games. He took a 4:2 lead when Gerulaitis lost his service on a double fault and won the match two games later with a forehand passing shot down the line. ”We have had better matches than this one,” Borg said. ”He was making a lot of errors today. He wasn’t as consistent as he usually is on clay.” Borg will now concentrate on winning at Wimbledon, the second of the four major tournaments that constitute tennis’s grand slam. The United States Open and the Australian Open are the other two. Borg’s coach, Lennart Bergelin, acknowledged that there was little he could do to improve Borg’s game on clay. ”I think we’ve reached the limit,” he said. Winning the Grand Slam remains one of Borg’s few remaining tennis ambitions. When asked how he rated his chances this year, Borg said casually, ”Well, I’m still in it. That’s for sure.” Gerulaitis’s loss today kept the United States from sweeping the tournament’s five championships. Even before the men’s final began, Chris Evert Lloyd had won the women’s singles title; Kathy Jordan and Anne Smith, the women’s doubles; Miss Smith and Billy Martin, the mixed doubles and Hank Pfister and Victor Amaya, the men’s doubles. American players last won four of five championships here in 1950. No American has won the men’s title since Tony Trabert did it in 1955. Another attendance record was set this year as 222,316 spectators attended during the two weeks, about 17,000 more than came last year. The increased popularity of this tournament has been dramatic; in 1975 the official attendance was only 72,000. Borg’s 58th title (nine majors). Stats of the final