1980 – 1981, Roland Garros
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(3), 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
French Open, Paris
May 25, 1981; 128 Draw (16 seeded) – $450,000; Surface – Clay
After nearly two-month absence from competition (shoulder injury) and rumors about quitting the game because of the will to become father, Bjorn Borg for the first time since 1975 wasn’t an overwhelming favorite for the title. Nevertheless he confirmed once again that Centre Court in Paris belongs to him, dropped sets only in a lopsided final to a new powerful figure of men’s tennis – Ivan Lendl. Borg raised La Coupe des Mousquetaires (a new designed in 1981) for the sixth and last time. The tournament featured an unusual outburst of Eliot Teltscher, who was strangled by a line judge after Teltscher’s attack on a chair-umpire!
The New York Times compilation (except the final)
Bjorn Borg, playing his first match in six weeks, had little trouble with Jose Lopez Maseo today in the first round of the French open tennis championships at Roland Garros Stadium. Intermittent rain kept officials rolling tarpaulins on and off the courts. Borg, top-seeded and seeking a record sixth title in the world’s premier clay tournament, defeated his Spanish opponent in just over an hour, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. John McEnroe, No. 3, eliminated Vince van Patten, a fellow American, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4. In the first upset, Adriano Panatta of Italy directed a barrage of passing shots past Harold Solomon, No. 8, and came off with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 triumph reminiscent of the 1976 final, in which he defeated the little American. Toward the end, Solomon seemed tired and in a hurry to get the match over. He took little time between serves, and cut short the alloted interval for changing sides. Serving the final game, he saved one match point at 0/40, then was beaten by another passing shot. Lopez Maseo, who upset Yannick Noah and Pascal Portes here last November in the Crocodile open, won the first game from Borg with a textbook drop shot. The Swede dominated the rest of the match, even though he made some mistakes. Borg had not been in a tournament since April 14, when an ailing shoulder helped send him to defeat against Victor Pecci of Paraguay in the first round at Monte Carlo. He resumed practicing only two weeks ago after a layoff of nearly a month. ”I’m very happy with the shoulder,” he said. ”I’m fully recovered. Sometimes I was missing balls I should have hit, but otherwise I was pleased. I feel fit and in good shape. I know I can stay out there a long time, and that’s important on this surface.” The slow red clay and the three-of-five-set format make this tournament a grueling test. Long rallies often extend matches beyond three hours. McEnroe is one player who does not feel at home on clay. ”I feel more comfortable on other surfaces,” he said after his match. ”But I’m willing to play on clay. It’s a different game, and I’m never sure whether to serve and volley or stay back.” Having defeated Borg twice this year, he said he was not thinking about the Swede’s condition. ”I have to reach the final before I worry about it,” he said. ‘‘But this is his best surface and my worst, and that is why I’d really like to beat him here.” Vitas Gerulaitis, last year’s runner-up, was upset by Ecuador’s Ricardo Ycaza today and became the third seeded American to fall in the first round. Gerulaitis, seeded ninth, lost, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 7-5, in a match that was interrupted by rain and darkness last night (Ycaza two-sets-to-one, 2:2, when rain halted the match). Ilie Nastase, 34 years old and the champion in 1973, flashed his old form in upsetting 10th-seeded, 22-year-old Eliot Teltscher of Los Angeles, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5. Teltscher once disputed a call strenuously, and after the match the umpire, Patrick Flodrops, said that Teltscher had pushed him, grabbed his tie and swore at him. Teltscher denied that, saying that they had bumped into each other accidentally. Flodrops said he would file a report. Leading by 5:3 in the third set and with the crowd cheering him on, Nastase squandered three match points in losing the ninth game. He went ahead again, 6:5, and at 30/30 hit a passing shot close to the line that was called good. That was when Teltscher made his protest, which resulted in a warning from the umpire. This time Nastase made good on the match point. He said he was concentrating well after having played recently in tournaments at Nancy and Frankfurt. ”I like to play the big tournaments, even if I don’t do that well,” he said. ”I don’t want to stop playing and just do nothing. Nobody has the right to tell me to stop. Maybe I’ll play until I’m 50.” The tournament committee fined Teltscher $2,500 for having scuffled with the umpire Flodrops. Philippe Chatrier, head of the International Tennis Federation, said that the tournament supervisor had recommended a $5,000 fine, but that the committee felt there had been extenuating circumstances. Teltscher compensated it himself becoming a runner-up in doubles (alongside Terry Moor, their only Grand Slam doubles final). Gerulaitis could not lift his game today against Ycaza, who is 23 years old and ranks only 42nd in the world. Gerulaitis managed to save three match points but succeeded only in postponing the inevitable, as his confidence waned. Ycaza, with the best victory of his career, admitted he was shaky when play resumed on the clay court. ”The stoppage last night was to his advantage,” he said, ”An interruption is always good if you are behind. He was volleying very well, but then in the second set he stayed back and was not sharp with his shots, so I decided to attack him.” Ycaza, who was a promising junior when he trained for a while under Harry Hopman at the Port Washington (L.I.) Tennis Academy, has not done much on the circuit. But he said his recent marriage had changed his outlook. ”After the interruption of the match yesterday, I had trouble sleeping,” he said. ”I was making shots in my head. I like the courts here because I was brought up on clay back home.” Gerulaitis declined to attend a news conference, leaving himself open to a fine. ”I’d rather pay the fine,” he said. His future looks uncertain. Once ranked in the top five, he is now barely in ninth place. Fred Stolle gave up as his coach, and now Robert Lansdorp, who broke with Tracy Austin, is working with him. Brian Gottfried, a serve-and-volley stylist, started badly against Guillermo Aubone, an Argentine, and another upset seemed possible when he dropped the first set. But then he steadied and won, 6-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4. Jimmy Connors, seeded second behind Borg, also lost a set en route to 6-1, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 rain-interrupted decision over Christophe Roger-Vasselin of France (Roger-Vasselin will take a sensational revenge in Paris two years later). Among the other winners were Jose-Luis Clerc of Argentina, who won the Italian open last week; Ivan Lendl of Czechoslovakia and Victor Pecci of Paraguay, the Italian finalist. Lendl’s compatriot, 35-year-old Jan Kodes, former two-time champion (1970-71), played his last match in Paris being ousted 2-6, 1-6, 4-6 by 16 years younger, Grand Slam debutant Diego Perez.
Bjorn Borg of Sweden, seeking a record sixth victory in the French Open tennis championships, defeated Cassio Motta of Brazil 6-1, 7-5, 6-0, in the rain today and advanced to the third round. The weather interfered with play for the fourth straight day. But Borg and Motta kept playing although the poor conditions persisted. Soon after Borg had wrapped up the match, the rain became heavier, and play was halted on all 11 courts of Roland Garros Stadium. Borg, who is top-seeded, is playing in his first tournament since injuring a shoulder seven weeks ago. Also reaching the third round was Wojtek Fibak of Poland, seeded No.14, who beat Fernando Luna of Spain, 6-0, 7-6, 6-0. It was a public holiday in France, for the Feast of the Ascension, and thousands of fans swarmed around the courts, many holding umbrellas. The most popular winner was qualifier Paul Torre, a Frenchman who is No. 220 in the world ranking. He upset Angel Gimenez of Spain, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3, for a place in the third round. Torre said: “I don’t consider myself a true professional and I have never had any thoughts of being famous.” Eddie Dibbs, who waited for two days to play, finally went on court and beat Bruce Manson, a fellow American, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1. Peter MacNamara of Australia completed a 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 victory over Georges Goven of France in a match that was halted last night with McNamara leading by two sets to one. Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, the top-rated contenders for Bjorn Borg’s French open tennis crown, advanced to the third round today. McEnroe, seeded third, routed Jaime Fillol of Chile, 6-3, 6-0, 6-1, but the second-seeded Connors had to struggle on the slow clay to overcome Gabriel Urpi, a 19-year-old Spaniard, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4. The match that stirred the crowd most was Thierry Tulasne‘s 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 conquest of Adriano Panatta. The partisan crowd cheered as Tulasne, a 17-year-old Frenchman, finished off the Italian veteran. Connors, after taking the first set, led by 5:2 in the second and appeared heading for a quick victory. But Urpi, who has not won a circuit tournament, fought back and eventually captured the set in a tiebreaker. In the fourth set Urpi trailed twice and pulled back. Down by 3:5, he saved a match point and got to 4:5 before Connors took the set, in which there were five breaks. Gene Mayer, No. 4, scored one break in each set to edge the veteran Ray Moore of South Africa, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. Guillermo Vilas, seeded sixth, moved comfortably past Pascal Portes of France, 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. Ivan Lendl of Czechoslovakia, No. 5, had a narrow escape against Ecuador’s Andres Gomez, winning by 6-2, 3-6, 2-6, 7-6, 6-4. Yannick Noah, France’s brightest prospect, had eight match points before finally overcoming Hans Gildemeister of Chile, 7-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, 34-year-old Ilie Nastase continued to play well, as he trounced Patrick Proisy of France, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0.
The main development in the men’s third round was a default by Gene Mayer, No. 4. He retired from his match with Victor Pecci, complaining that his right wrist had become too painful to continue. Pecci had been leading, 6-4, 2-1. Mayer said he fell on the wrist ”in the push-up position” six weeks ago at a tournament in Rome, causing a tendon sheath to become inflamed. He said he thought the injury had healed, but realized it had not after his first match here Tuesday. Pecci, the big Paraguayan who will meet Wojtek Fibak of Poland in the next round, said he was unaware of Mayer’s condition going into the match, but soon realized his opponent was handicapped. Bjorn Borg, the top favorite, defeated Paul Antoine Torre, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2, ending the hoopla surrounding the 28-year-old Frenchman. Torre was an impressive junior, but quit the game to earn an engineering degree. He resumed playing seriously three years ago, and had drawn much attention with unexpected victories over Paul McNamee of Australia (McNamee was serving at 5:3 in the 5th set and lost four straight games) and Angel Giminez of Spain. Jimmy Connors, seeded second, overcame Jean-Francois Caujolle, who last year took him to five sets (almost winning in three easy sets). This time Caujolle, playing with a sore ankle, was out of his class in a 6-0, 6-2, 6-0 rout. After breezing through two matches, Ilie Nastase was eliminated in the third round by Terry Moor of Memphis, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. And Eddie Dibbs, seeded 16th, lost in five sets to the artistry and tenacity of Mel Purcell, who battled back from 0-2 in sets. The scores were 3-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Among those entering the last 16 were Balazs Taroczy, Thierry Tulasne, Yannick Noah, Guillermo Vilas (dropped just two games in his match) and Ivan Lendl. John McEnroe gave up a set in beating Diego Perez, a Uruguayan who lives in France, 6-1, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4. ”I was on and off,’‘ said the New Yorker. ‘‘I played all right when I had to, but the match took longer than it should have. I missed too many shots. I was also missing a lot of first serves.” Said Perez: ”It was the first time I played a top-10 player, and I think I did pretty well, but he is better than me, so what can I do?” Carlos Kirmayr of Brazil, the runner-up to Eddie Dibbs in the recent Tournament of Champions at Forest Hills, mastered the 12th-seeded Brian Gottfried, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, in a third-round encounter.
”And I was told his weakness was against left-handers,” said Terry Moor, who had not played Bjorn Borg before. ”I certainly didn’t give him that game,” Borg said. ”The important thing in any match is to win. If you can win 6-0, 6-0, 6-0, that’s O.K. But it’s no good feeling sorry for the other guy. If you let him win one, he might go on and win the match.” There were two upsets in men’s play: Victor Pecci beat Wojtek Fibak, and Carlos Kirmayr ousted Brian Gottfried. Borg, favored to win his sixth French title, came close to shutting out Terry Moor , a 29-year-old American left-hander. In an overwhelming performance, Borg won, 6-0, 6-0, 6-1, and moved into the quarterfinals. He was at 5:0 in the third set before yielding the lone game. “The man is on another level,” Moor said, “Maybe it has something to do with who he is, but everything was so deep, so high. Other guys, once in a while they miss. I felt lost. The thing was he looked bored. I have no idea how people beat him. I don’t see how they win games.” In the noisiest match on the center court, Balazs Taroczy, the tall, elegant-stroking Hungarian, ended the bid of 17-year-old Thierry Tulasne of France, 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. Tulasne is rated the best player of his age in the world, and was the idol of 16,000 screaming fans. They stood and cheered his forehands, and yelled in protest every time they thought he got a bad call. Taroczy led 5:3 in the third set and was poised to win quickly, but the French youngster suddenly gained momentum and won four games to take the set. Yannick Noah of France provided an exciting 15 minutes on center court today when he completed a 6-2, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 upset of Guillermo Vilas. The victory moved Noah into the quarterfinals. Vilas had won the title in 1977, and lost in the final in 1975 and 1978. The match was halted by darkness last night at 3:3 in the fourth set. When it resumed this morning, a crowd of about 16,000 at Roland Garros Stadium cheered mightily for the 21-year-old Frenchman. John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors also gained the last eight. Playing with a wrist support because of some pain, McEnroe defeated Ricardo Ycaza of Ecuador, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. He will next face Ivan Lendl of Czechoslovakia, who struggled to beat Australia’s Peter McNamara, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. Connors won a long battle from Mel Purcell, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(2). His opponent in the quarterfinals will be Jose-Luis Clerc, the Argentine who also had to struggle a long time on the clay in beating Carlos Kirmayr of Brazil, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5. On the resumption of the Noah-Vilas match, the Frenchmen held to 5:4. Then, receiving serve, he wasted two match points. But he got to match point again after a long exchange that ended with Noah flat on his back. He needed a minute’s respite to clean the clay from his legs and clothes. Then he went back on court and finished off Vilas with a smash. McEnroe said he thought he might have a strained tendon. ”I first felt it in the previous round,” he said. But the left-hander never appeared in trouble as he scored one break in each set to overcome Ycaza on a packed center court. Although Connors won in straight sets, the match was closely contested. Purcell stretched him with a gritty display, marked by long rallies and deuce games. They battled for more than three hours under a hot sun, and both looked very tired. Connors got the key break in each of the first two sets, and led in the third set, 4:2. Purcell, a slim figure with his blond hair held by a white headband, appeared beaten. But suddenly the match turned as he broke back and fought his way to 4:4. He had length and touch as he broke Connors again for 5:4, and in the next game he had four set points. But he missed them all. They went to a tiebreaker. Then Purcell’s gallant bid ended. He looked listless and distraught, winning only two points.
After dropping the first set and falling behind by 4:1* in the 2nd set, Victor Pecci righted himself today and overpowered Yannick Noah, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the semifinals of the French Open tennis tournament. He will play Bjorn Borg, who eliminated Balazs Taroczy, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2. ”I was serving better than ever,” Pecci said of his uphill fight against the Frenchman. ”The last time I served so well was probably in 1979 against Vilas and Connors.” He was referring to the French open two years ago, when he sailed past them and Harold Solomon, only to lose to Borg in the final of this first of the four Grand Slam events. Borg’s last defeat, at Monte Carlo in April, was at the hands of Pecci. When he walked out to play in front of the cheering home fans on the center court of Roland Garros Stadium, Noah was still riding the euphoria of his victory yesterday over Vilas. Against Pecci, he played aggressively, going to the net often and winning points with his volleys. But the 6-foot-4-inch Pecci was also on the attack. Thus, the match contrasted markedly with the routine, often-boring performance between two baseliners. Pecci can play both styles, and it will be interesting to see which one he uses against Borg, who is mainly a baseliner. With his victory over Taroczy, Borg kept his record of not having lost a set in the tournament. But he said, ”A lot of the games were really close.” An umpire overruled a linesman at a critical moment, and the replayed point sent Jimmy Connors into a tailspin from which he could not recover today. As a result, Connors was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the French Open tennis championships by Jose-Luis Clerc, 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-0. Until the last set, it was a battle of good and bad tennis. But after the call, Connors could collect only 8 points in losing seven straight games. The match lasted 4 hours 26 minutes, not counting a 40-minute rain delay. Connors was ahead, two sets to one but trailing by 5:6, 30/30 in the 4th set, when Clerc hit a ball close to the baseline that the linesman called out. But the umpire, Chau Lu, immediately ordered the point replayed, saying the ball had been in. Infuriated, Connors made gestures of displeasure at the umpire while the crowd jeered the ruling. When play resumed, Connors netted a shot for 30/40, then lost the set as Clerc hit a winner. Connors did not win another game. ”Four or five years ago, I probably would have jerked him out of the chair,” Connors said, referring to the umpire. ”But my son was watching and I didn’t want to do anything to upset him.” Connors called the incident ”a good lesson” for him, adding, ”Usually I can forget about it and go on playing.” Clerc, who does better on clay than on any other surface, extended his winning streak to 16 matches. He recently won the Italian open and a tournament in Florence. The John McEnroe–Ivan Lendl match did not lack argument, either. In the first set McEnroe, apparently frustrated by Lendl’s effective baseline hitting, drew a warning for slamming balls angrily into the net. When the umpire gave him the first warning in French, McEnroe shouted, ”Say it in English!” and slammed another ball. After netting two straight forehands from the backcourt in the second set, McEnroe stormed along the alley calling for the court to be swept, something that is done only after a set. McEnroe was eliminated by Lendl, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, in a men’s quarterfinal match that was carried over from yesterday. Baseline play is what troubled McEnroe yesterday, when he fell two sets behind Lendl before rain suspended play with McEnroe ahead, 3:2, in the third set. Today Lendl needed only 21 minutes to finish off McEnroe, who was seeded second. McEnroe worked his way up to a 5:2 lead, but then he began to press too hard, slapping balls out of sight and making other unforced mistakes. Lendl ran off five games in a row, winning the final game at love. ” I played a couple of good points but then totally lost it,” McEnroe said. ”I don’t think I put on a good performance in this tournament at all. I felt that I had some points won but then made the wrong shots. In rallying, I always seemed to lose the last stroke, and that’s what counts.” Although McEnroe was humble in defeat and praised the work of Lendl, he pointed out the difficulty he has playing on clay. ”It’s a mental thing, ” he said.
Victor Pecci lost to Bjorn Borg in the 1979 final here, extending him to four sets. Today, in a match that lasted 2 hours 22 minutes, he was frustrated by his inability to get in his first serve and by the accuracy of Borg’s returns. ”Sometimes I served well, but he returned everything,” Pecci said, ”so I kept trying to serve harder and harder. That’s why I was missing.” Borg spiced his game with volleying today and defeated Pecci 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, to reach the final. Borg, who turns 25 tomorrow and has won the tournament five times, will play Ivan Lendl of Czechoslovakia for the title Sunday. Lendl eliminated Jose-Luis Clerc of Argentina, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7), 6-2, surviving a match point in the fourth set. Facing the player who was the last to beat him, on April 14 in Monte Carlo, Borg sprang a surprise by leaving the baseline and going to the net on the slow clay, especially in the first set. ”I tried to go in as much as I could,” he said. ”It’s difficult to make perfect passing shots all the time.” Pecci lost to Borg in the 1979 final here, extending him to four sets. Today he was frustrated by his inability to get in his first serve and by the accuracy of Borg’s returns. He opened the third set with an ace, and broke serve in the sixth game to go ahead, 4:2. But then he netted easy shots and allowed Borg to get back a break. Pecci broke for 5:3, but again could not capitalize on the advantage, as he gave away two set points and lost the ninth game by double-faulting. With Borg serving at 4:5, Pecci established third set point on a drop shot. But he squandered the opportunityBjorn Borg, making three consecutive errors that left the set at 5:5. Then he double-faulted twice in the next game, and finally lost the match on Borg’s clean cross-court volley. Asked what it would take to defeat Borg, Pecci said: ”Bjorn BorgMaybe I haBjorn Borgve to improve my volley, especially my punch volley. He was getting to them and passing me.”
On clay, Lendl and Clerc have the patience necessary to win, and few of the spectators were surprised that their match lasted 4 hours 23 minutes. Clerc had beaten him five of six times. Serving at 5:5, 0/40 in the fourth set, Lendl struggled to stay in the match. He hung on and won the next 5 points to go ahead, 6:5, but Clerc quickly pulled even on his serve. Lendl got a 4:1* lead in the tiebreaker, and still Clerc fought back to gain a *5:4 margin. Lendl evened the score after another of the innumerable long rallies, then Clerc got to 6:5 and match point. But Lendl escaped. He unloaded a serve that his rival could barely get his racquet on, and so at 6:6, the tiebreaker would have to be won by 2 points. Lendl took the lead when Clerc sent a ball into the net, but then Lendl made the same mistake and it was even again, with the crowd tense and excited. Lendl shot a forehand down the line and then he forced a fifth set by making Clerc miss a shot at his feet. They went to 2:2 in the fifth, with Clerc serving at 40/0. Lendl tenaciously stayed with every ball and finally got the break. Losing that game seemed to snap Clerc’s resolve. ”My physical condition made a difference,” Lendl said. ”I think he got a little tired at the beginning of the fifth set. I tried to take advantage of it.” Clerc had won 16 straight matches in three tournaments, including the Italian Open. Lendl, who is 21 years old, has won two of six matches against Borg. Last year in Basel, Switzerland, they battled four and a half hours indoors, with Lendl winning in the fifth set. Borg got revenge later, when he won in three straight sets in the Grand Prix Masters.
Final: Sports Illustrated
It’s clear from the events in the French Open last week that Bjorn Borg will have to be boiled in oil, hung by the thumbs, pushed out of a speeding Concorde or even made to get his hair cut before anyone will ever again believe reports of his demise. In Paris the discipline, the will, the shot-making, the impenetrability of the champion were once again on display. On Sunday Borg turned away the fierce challenge of the adventuresome and sometimes brilliant Ivan Lendl, who played him as nobody had in his five previous finals. The scores were 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 (3 hours 13 minutes) as Borg won Open No. 6, his fourth in a row. Normally the Swede arrives in the City of Light as a conquering hero, but this time he came virtually out of hiding, having suffered a lost springtime. During a six-week stretch in March and April he had been beaten by John McEnroe (Milan), by somebody named Rolf Gehring (Brussels) and by Victor Pecci, who disposed of Borg on Bjorn’s own home clay in Monte Carlo. Before the tournament, Borg said he had heard the questions about his health and motivation. He said he resented them. He said, “I am not going down.” He said he was ready again to set out on the trail of the Grand Slam. Looking lean and happy and hungry, he took the first leg despite a courageous stand by Lendl, who twice could have folded in the championship round. The young Czech, by now the world’s second-best clay-court player, surrendered five straight games to lose the first set, but then he unloaded his slingshot forehand and squared the match at a set apiece. It was Borg’s first lost set in Paris after winning 40 in a row! Lendl made decisive break at 5:4 in a game which went 6 times to ‘deuce’; the Swede had two game points after he had faced 4 set points, but Lendl managed to win the last three points of the game, two with forehand winners. Borg, serving splendidly (he missed only nine first serves in the first and third sets), again ripped off a five-game series to take the third (from *1:2). And Lendl stormed back. The two had been exchanging blows practically from the boundaries of the nearby Bois de Boulogne for most of a long afternoon, avoiding the neutral territory around the net as if it were the Love Canal. But in the 4th set Borg ventured in behind some shallow forehands. Lendl passed, held for 4:3, broke Borg at 30 with a cross-court drive that found the Swede hesitant at net and closed out the set. “In the fifth, anyone can win,” Borg was to say later, “But I was ready to give everything, to stay out and rally and not take chances.” Sound familiar? Slowing the pace by changing up off the forehand and serve, Borg wore down a tired Lendl with consistency. In a three-game stretch of the 5th set, there were five deuce points – Borg won all those games; when he raced from a far corner for a drop volley, which he somehow slid down the line for a winner to reach *4:0, Lendl was finally through and the answers about Borg were fairly obvious. The Swede won the first championship point after a 35-stroke rally. Lendl, who has beaten Borg but never on clay, said he would study the video tapes with the hope of transforming the defeat into a learning experience. “I tried as hard as I could and I’m satisfied with that,” he said. “When you do your best best there is nothing else to do.” Stats of the match Borg’s 62nd title, 11th and last major. The Swede never appeared in Paris again, his record in the tournament is magnificent: 49-2 (.960). His record of six triumphs will be beaten 31 years later by Rafael Nadal.