Jimmy Connors, winner of the Australian Open (1974), Wimbledon (1974), and the U.S. Open (1974, 1976) today added the World Championship of Tennis (WCT) Finals to the list of major titles he has captured with a performance worthy of the honor.
Serving perhaps better than he ever has before, darting and lunging around the court applying relentless pressure, Connors dictated the pattern of the match and defeated Dick Stockton, 6-7, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3, in three hours three minutes.
"Today I felt I was playing the No. 1 player in the world when he was playing his best tennis," Stockton told the sellout crowd of 9,352 at Moody Coliseum during the postmatch presentation ceremonies.
No one disagreed with that assessment.
Connors, 24, who never lost his serve and had only five break points against him in the match, was asked if he has ever served better.
"What percentage of first serves did I get in" he replied with a question.
Seventy-eight per cent - 100 of 126, he was told.
"Ooh, bless me!" he murmured, a huge grin spreading over the face that looks as cherubic when Connors wins as it does pained on the infrequent occasions that he loses a big match.
"I got a lot of first ones in and served a lot harder then I normally do," he said. "I didn't want Dickie jumping in on me. I don't think I've ever gotten a better percentage of first serves in."
From the time he lost the first set tie breaker, 7 points to 5, after leading 5-4 with two serves to come, Connors shifted into the maintained a standard of play that was remarkable.
"He attacked well, served well, and returned serve well. I just wasn't able to get to the net as much as I would have liked," said Stockton, who could [TEXT ILLEGIBLE]the whole match.He made me think too much . . . I could never put up, anything I wanted to do, he just took the play away from me."
Connors had four break points in the first game of the match, which went to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] six throws and lasted 10 minutes. Thereafter, Stockton matched him, stroke for stroke into the tie breaker in a marvelous set tht lasted an hour.
Connors, the first lefthander to win the WCT title, seized a 5-4 lead in the tie breaker (best-of-13 points) with a wonderful forehand down-the-line passing shot, but then flubbed a forehand down-the-line pass off a deep [TEXT ILLEGIBLE] condemned to forever rolling a rock uphill. Whenever it looked as if he might be getting there, Connors shoved him back down.
Stockton's second serves, deep and well-placed in the first set, became more vulnerable, and Connors took advantage of them. He cranked three clean winnersite break at love in the sixth game. "After that," he said, "I just started rolling."
Stockton lost his serve in the first game of the third,set sailing a forehand long and netting an awkward high backhand volley after Connors had put him a hole, 0-30. with two superb returns.
Stockton saved two break points in the thrid game and then had his only chances to get back in the match. He had two break points in the fourth game, three in the sixth, but after Connors weathered those crises he was never down a brak point again.
Stockton, who earned $40,000 as runner-up, was cheerful and good-humored when he came into the interview room later. He examined the diamond championship ring and matching pendant that Connors had been presented, along with a check for the winner's prize of $100,000 (which goes against his annual guarantee from WCT, said to be $750,000).
"How come the winner gets everything?" Stockton asked, smiling broadly at the man who has beaten him in eight of nine matches since they turned pro. But in this case, he knew the winner richly deserved everything he got.