TENNIS WAS for everyone over the weekend. A gorgeous set of matches was played at Wimbledon, still the queen of championships. The play took recreation players by the droves off the courts of America and put them, gasping in pleasure and incredulity, in front of their TV screens.
Martina Navratilova beat Chris Evert Lloyd on Saturday for her sixth (and fourth straight) Wimbledon title. So what's new when these two giants of the game stage their latest contest? Miss Navratilova is a marvelous champion, hard-working, brainy, superbly controlled, aggressive beyond belief. Never the fan's favorite, she has nonetheless earned her preeminence, and no one could begrudge her victory over Chris Evert, who has matured visibly over the years, who has come through several difficult stages of her career and raised her game and her competitiveness to a level not only of excellence but of dignity. The cameras provide the opportunity for intimate inspection of character as well as strokes in tennis. These two women have held up in both departments for a very long time.
You know that yesterday a 17-year-old boy from West Germany named Boris Becker became the youngest Wimbledon champ ever by beating a 27- year-old South African expatriate, Kevin Curren, who climbed two Everests on the way to the final by defeating John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Mr. Becker had a young man's power and hunger, and even those of us who on principle always root for the older player, in any match, in any sport, could not deny that he fully deserved his title. The transition of generations in tennis is one of the great rituals of sport. Mr. Becker, we are sure, is going to fit right up there in the pantheon.
But there is something else about him, that, for the moment, we admire even more than his Mach 2 serve and his teen-ager's heroics. True, Mr. Becker took a few mild liberties with sportsmanship on the court, but he altogether avoided the surly, egotistical antics that some of the leading players have made routine and tournament official have cravenly indulged. He had a happy kid's "boogie" in moments of elation, but his moments of frustration he bore without undue fuss. We think we know why. As he neared victory, his opponent, trying desperately to get back in the match, hit a sweet winner. The camera zoomed in on his mother, watching in a box, and she was applauding Kevin Curren's shot. The sight could not have been more remote from the white-knuckled winning-is- the-only-thing frenzy so evident elsewhere in big- bucks sport. Congratulations, Mrs. Becker.