Bjorn Borg was spotted in the West End Saturday night, his last free evening before the start of the Wimbledon tennis championships, taking in a performance of the long-running musical "Jesus Christ, Superstar" with his fiance and his coach.
Make of that what you will. Perhaps Borg, the No. 1 seed, was looking for a bit of last-minute divine guidance before embarking on the adventure that most observers believe will lead him to a showdown with Jimmy Connors in the men's singles final a week from Saturday.
Borg, 22, is aiming for his third straight singles title, a feat no man has accomplished at Wimbledon since Englishman Fred Perry in 1934-35-36. The seeding committee, London bookmakers and Perry - now a commentator on tennis for BBC radio - think that a Borg-Connors windup, in a rematch of last year's memorable five-set final, is likely.
Borg opens the Centre Court program for the oldest and most prestigious of tournaments this afternoon. He should have little difficulty against Victor Amaya, a 23-year-old left-hander from Holland, Mich., the biggest man on the international tennis circuit at 6 feet 7 and 220 pounds.
Amaya's fearsome serve should win him a few games on the fast, slick grass, but the rest of his game is too plodding to be of much concern to the swift, stolid, nimble Swede. Borg won here in 1976 without losing a set, and defended last year by beating Connors in a final of brutish majesty, worthy of Wimbledon's centennial year.
Only the wildest of underdog-loving romantics would give Amaya a chance, and he is not among them. After being informed last week that he had been drawn against Borg, he shrugged and said, "I'm playing the only guy in the world I know I can't beat."
The rest of the opening-day program in the Elizabethan center stadium, the most fabled arena in tennis, is apealing.
Brian Gottfried, the No. 5 seed and a good, aggressive fast-court player who has found his dreams focusing on Wimbledon of late, has a tough first-round test. He plays Englishman John Lloyd, who upset Roscoe Tanner on opening day last year and was runner-up to Vitas Gerulaitis in five sets in the Australian Open on Melbourne grass in December.
Guillermo VIlas, the No. 4 seed, has perhaps an even tougher opponent. The 25-year-old Argentinian left-hander who won the French and U.S. opens on clay last year and was runner-up to Borg in Paris two weeks ago, faces Stan Smith - not nearly the threat he was whrn he won here in 1972, but still a formidable grass-court player.
Last year Vilas was upset here in the third round by Billy Martin, then went on to win 51 consecutive matches over the next three months - but none of them on grass.
The day's final match on Center Court puts Tanner, seeded No. 6 on the strenght of his wicked left-handed serve, against Ismail El Shafei of Egypt, another powerful lefty who is inconsistent but capable of spectacular upsets.
Connor's first-rounder against Russell Simpson of New Zealand is scheduled on Court No. 1, the smaller of the adjacent arenas which showcase the featured matches among the smorgabord on 15 courts at the All England Club.
All of the 16 seeded men are slated to play today except for No. 11 John McEnroe, the temperamental young left-hander from Douglaston, N.Y. Last year he became the youngest semifinalist ever at Wimbledon, and the only player to come out of the qualifying compeition and reach that stage.
He earned a day off by reaching the final of the tuneup tournament at London's Queen's Club yesterday, to be beaten by Australian lefty Tony Roche, 8-6, 9-7. Roche, 32, runner up to Rod Laver in the first "open" Wimbledon 10 years ago, is unseeded, but could be a factor judging from his outstanding form.
If the seedings were to hold up, the quaterfinal pairings going into the second week would be Borg vs. Sandy Mayer, Vilas vs. Tanner, Gottfried vs. Gerulaitis and Connors vs. Raul Ramirez.
Vilas, hardly as good as player on grass as on clay, has probably the toughest draw of the men's seeds. If he beats Smith, he would likely face Arthur Ashe in the fourth round. If he survives that, he would likely meet Tanner for the right to face his old nemesis, Borg, in the semis.
The women's singles begin tomorrow, with relatively few appealing first-round matches.
Julie Anthony, the dogged doctoral candidated in psychology from UCLA, plays No. 2 seed Martina Navratilova, who beat Chris Evert on Saturday and is in wonderful form as she strives to reach the final for the first time.
Pam Shriver of Lutherville, Md., whose serve-and-volley style is well suited to grass-court play, opens against Mimi Wikstedt of Sweden and could be headed for a third-round match against Sue Barker of Britain and possibly a fourth-round meeting with six-time singles champion Billie Jean King.
If the seedings are justified, the women's quarterfinal pairings would be Chris Evert, the 1974 and '76 champion and top seed, vs. King; defending champion Virginia Wade vs. Australian Wendy Turnbull, the runnerup to Evert in last year's U.S. Open and a winner over Wade in three of their last four meetings; last year's runner-up Betty Stove vs. Evonne Goolaging Cawley, champion of 1971 and losing finalist three times; and Navratilova vs. another lefty, Australian Dianne Fromholtz.
But that is Tuesday. One does not advisedly look ahead a day at Wimbledon, where so much can happen on a single afternoon.
No one knows that better than Borg, who would like his reign as champion to outlast the London run of "Jesus Christ, Superstar." It has been on stage in theWest End for more than three years.