On a day when 32 past champions were honored in center court ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of Stade Roland Garros, Bjorn Borg asserted himself as one of the greatest by winning the French Open tennis championship for the third time, five days past his 22nd birthday.
If there was any lingering doubt as to who is the best present-day player, at least on clay, Borg dispelled it by overwhelming Guillermo Vilas, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3, completing what is thought to be the most devastating rampage ever though the premier clay court championship of Europe.
Borg lost only 32 games in seven matches as he recaptured a title he had won in 1974 and 1975.
Ilie Nastase was the last man to win the French without losing a set, in 1973, but no modern player has surged through the 128-man draw as ruthlessly as Borg did in stomping Eric Deblicker, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, Rick Fagel, 6-0, 6-1, 6-0, Paolo Bertoluccin 6-0, 6-2, 6-2, Roscoe Tanner, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6, Raul Ramirez, 6-3, 6-3, 6-0, Corrado Barazzutti, 6-0, 6-1, 6-0, and Vilas.
It took Borg only 1 hour 48 minutes to extend his now well-established domination over Vilas, who won the French and U.S. Opens last year during a 57-match clay court winning streak, but did not meet Borg during that time.
"I feel that I have a little bit of an advantage when I play Guillermo because I have been beating him so many times and so easily," Borg said.
He has won 13 of their 17 career meetings, including all six since 1975. Borg has won nine of their last 10 encounters, six of six on clay since the 1975 French final in which he clobered Vilas, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Another sun-drenched capacity crowd at Roland-Garros hoped that the Argentinian left-hander, who lost only one set in winning the title here in Borg's absence last year, could make a fight of it this time.
But Vilas was hammered when he tired to duel Borg in long, back-court rallies and trounched just as mercilessly when he changed his tactics and tried desperately to attack the net.
"He played so well, he didn't give me any chances at all," said Vilas, who contributed to his own downfall with numerous backhand errors as he repeatedly tried to keep the ball low with slice instead of hitting his usual high-bouncing topspin.
"I knew if I was going to play from the baseline all the time, I was going to win more games but not the match. So I tried different tactics, but it did not work. Nothing worked."
The final was the second most lopsided, in terms of the score, since the French championships went international in 1921. Only last year's was more decisive, Vilas routing Brian Gottfried, 6-0, 6-3, 6-0.
The artwork on the cover of the program for this year's championships was a painting depicting Henri Cochet, the winner in 1928, the year Stade Roland Garros was built, and Borg, the favorite 50 years later. The painting came to life yesterday as Cochet, 76, presented the winner's trophy to the most precocious prodigy in the history of the game.
Borg also received the sort of first prize money that Cochet never dreamed of but Borg considers routine: $43,000.
Excluding default in Rotterdam and Dallas beacuse of infected blisters on first his toe and then his right thumb, Borg has not lost a match since Tom Gullikson beat him in Miami the first week of March. Since then, he has won 31 straight.
He left by private jet last night for Belgrade, where he will play for Sweden against Yugoslavia in a Davis cup series beginning Tuesday. On Friday he will go to England to practice on grass for Wimbl edon, where he hopes to become the first man to win three straight singles titles since Fred Perry in 1934-35-36.
Borg also has a chance to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1962 to win the Italian and French championships, the two most important on the continent, plus Wimbledon the same year.
"Before I went to Rome, I was a little bit worried that I might be tired after Paris. But I feel very good, very strong, not tired at all," said Borg, who first achieved the Italian-French double as a teen-ager in 1974. Considering the puny number of games he lost here, it is not surprising that he does not feel weary.
The pattern of the final was established early on a gloriously sunny but breezy Parisian afternoon.
Borg had one break point against him in the first game, but Vilas netted a soft, slice backhand, then mis-hit a forehand and was passed when he tried to go to the net behind a backhand approach off a long baseline rally.
Vilas lost his serve in the second game, committing three unforced errors and double faulting for the break. Already he was feeling the intense pressure that Borg exerts, and glancing forlornly to his coach, the gloomy Rumanian Ion Tiriac, who was chain-smoking cigarettes in a court-side box.
Borg lost his serve in the third game after falling to put away two seemingly easy overhead smashes - he lost them in the sun, he explained later - but Vilas promptly played a terrible game, dumping two backhands weakly into the net after getting from 0.20 to 30.30.
Borg did not look as indestructible as he had against Barazzutti on Saturday, but even so Vilas was not able to hold his serve until the 10th game of the match. Borg was winning most of the long, cautious rallies, some of them going more than 50 strokes.
Vilas, who has the muscular build of a fullback and the soul of a poet, was making far too many backhand errors, trying to slice the ball low to Borg's backhand instead of hitting with the topspin that is his normal style. The slice backhand had been a successful tactic for him against Jimmy Connors in last year's U.S. Open final, but this time he was unable to execute it with any certainty.
Perhaps the key game was the first of the second set. Borg blasted a forehand winner to get to 30-40, then broke when Vilas overhit on overhead from behind the baseline off a remarkable "get" of an apparently winning backhand smash, Borg anticipated where Vilas would hit it and took off like the wind, making a sliding retrieve from 15 feet out of the court and lobbing the ball back deep.
That was a reminder of the many ways Borg has of discouraging an opponent; his steadiness, power, instincts for match play, mental toughness and amazing swiftness afoot.
He made some other astounding "gets," including one on the game point for a 2-0 lead in the second set. Vilas cracked a forehand cross-court volley that should have been a winner, but Borg sprinted to the bail and cranked a sliding backhand cross-court, sharply angled, that forced a low volley error. Like Laver in his prime, Borg is able to hit such forcing shots from defensive positions.
Vilas broke Borg in the first game of the third set, as the crowd, restless after so many lopsided matches and hoping to see a battle, rose and claped rhythmically, trying to spur Vilas on.
But the Argentinian lost 16 of the next 19 points, falling to 1-4 down. He served his fourth and fifth double faults during that stretch, his backhand went awry again, and Borg was passing him left and right as he tried to get to the net.
"I was not scared, because I know he doesn't have that much confidence coming in," Borg said. "He prefers to play from the back, as I do . . . We do everything about the same, but I think I do it a little bit better."
Virginia Ruzici of Rumania won the women's top prize of $21,000, dethroning last year's champion, Mima Jausavec of Yugoslavia, 6-2, 6-2.