1968-1979 (RG summary)

borg_cupsIt’s a period of Bjorn Borg‘s domination which extended onto the first two years of the 80s. The Swede captured four titles in the 70s compiling a 35-2 record. When he triumphed in 1974 as an 18-year-old boy (the only teenager to win a major in the 70s), it was a hard-fought victory, he was forced to play three 5-setters then; another triumphs were totally different – he was actually untouchable playing in his characteristic headband, no-one approached even to a 5th set against him. The most comprehensive triumph (not only in Paris, but in the entire Open era too, as far as majors are concerned) came in 1978 as he lost just 32 games in seven matches! He closed all those encounters within 1.5 hours except the final in which he needed 1 hour 49 minutes to humiliate 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 the defending champion (Borg withdrew that year) Guillermo Vilas. “I feel that I have a little bit of an advantage when I play against him, probably because I have beaten him so many times” said Borg after the final. In the 2nd set, the ball crossed the net 39 times in a rally, two points later it crossed the net 86 times, Borg won both points. And it perfectly sums up the outlook of their duel. When they met in the Roland Garros final three years before, the outcome was very similar: 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 for Borg in 1 hour 35 panatta_rg76minutes. Vilas’ biggest strength – his ability to keep the ball very long in play with a heavy top-spin wasn’t simply enough to scare the more patient and more accurate Ice-Borg.  Nevertheless the Argentine was Borg’s biggest clay-court contender in that period, besides those two lost finals and the triumph in 1977 when he displayed Borg’s alike form, crashing all opponents, he reached quarterfinals in 1976 and 1979 as well as fifth round in 1972 (yes, it was an untypical major with five rounds!). The third main figure of that period is Adriano Panatta. The Italian is the only man ever to beat Borg in Paris, and he did it twice (!) – each time after a decisive 4th set tie-break: 1973 – in the fourth round as Borg only emerged as a sensational youngster, and three years later in the quarterfinals when the Swede was already a two-time defending champion. Panatta in 1976 lifted the trophy, even though he was almost eliminated as early as in the first round saving a match point at 9:10 in the 5th set with a diving volley! He was a semifinalist twice: 1973 & 1975 (lost to Borg, for whom it was the only dropped set that year), and quarter-finalist twice as well: 1972 & 1977.

Champions (1968-1979):
4 – Bjorn Borg (1974-75, 1978-79)
2 – Jan Kodes (1970-71)
1 – Ken Rosewall (1968), Rod Laver (1969), Andres Gimeno (1972), Ilie Nastase (1973), Adriano Panatta (1976), Guillermo Vilas (1977)
Curiosities (1968-1979):
* first major of the Open era
* Bjorn Borg tied Henri Cochet’s 47-year-old record of winning Roland Garros 4 times, the Frenchman captured titles in years: 1926, 1928, 1930, 1932
* besides Borg in 1978, also Ilie Nastase claimed the title not dropping a set [1973]
* unseeded finalists: Niki Pilic [1973] & Victor Pecci [1979]
* in 1969 occurred two matches in which a winner lost two bagel sets
* longest match: 4 hours 30 minutes – Frantisek Pala d. Brian Gottfried 10-8, 10-8, 9-11, 8-6 [1972]
* Jimmy Connors, who won three Grand Slam events in 1974, wasn’t allowed to participate at Roland Garros ’74 due to his involvement in the World Team Tennis league
* in years 1973-75 the first two rounds were played in “the best of three” format
* tie-breaks introduced in 1973
* longest 5th set in terms of games – twice won by Adriano Panatta (!):
– B.Phillips-Moore 7-5, 1-6, 6-0, 2-6, 12-10 [1970]
– P.Hutka 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, 0-6, 12-10 [1976]
* longest set in terms of games before the tie-break introduction:
Jose-Edison Mandarino d. Antonio Zugarelli 4-6, 6-2, 16-14, 6-2 [1972]
* Eliot Teltscher became the first man in the Open era to play four consecutive 5-setters in one tournament [1979]
* youngest player to participate: Jacques Thamin, 16 years 5 days [1968]
* oldest player to participate: Giuseppe Merlo, 41 years 7 months [1969]

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