Brian Gottfried imagines that there is a Great God of Tennis who sits somewhere above the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, watching the mortals in short pants struggling below, conjuring up tests of the will and skill of the playeers in the Wimbledon championships.
A little rain. A bit of wind. A doubtful line call here and there. Delays. Distractions. A true bounce one moment and an absurd one the next on grass courts that can play a dozen different ways in an afternoon.
Gottfried escaped several ticklish situations yesterday - he was down a set and a set point in the second - to eliminate Australian Allan Stone. 6-8, 9-7, 6-2, 6-1, on a day when many of the favorites and tough matches but survived to the round of 16.
The first week of Wimbledon's 101st year ended with the kind of day associated with the place. The program was bulging, as were the flower-and shrub-lined grounds of the All England Club. The 15 grass courts offered a sumptuous smorgasbord of tennis, and there seemed to be something worth sampling on every plate.
Little dramas were going on in half a dozen places simultaneously. Conditions were difficult. The grass was spongy and rather dead. Some of the outside courts were badly porkmarked and so worn that the baseline and the most direct routes to the net looked like muddey ruts.
Play began at noon, two hours earlier than usual, as the referee tried to catch up with a schedule snarled by rain. There was some more drizzle on a bleak, melancholy afternoon, and the breeze was so chilly that most of the linesmen wore overcoats, and kept their hands in their pockets.
"The weather, the 10 o'clock start, the lack of practice and match play. It was a very tough and dangerous day," said Chris Evert, the champion of 1974 and '76, whose concentration lapsed in the second set before she got plugged in again and beat Laura DuPont, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0.
Eight other seeded women - No. 2 Martina Navratilova, No. 4 Virginia Wade, No. 5 Billie Jean King, No. 8 Dianne Fromholtz, No. 12 Mima Jausovec, No. 14 Sue Barker, and No. 15 Regina Marsikova - surrendered sets before advancing. The No. 16 seed, Marita Redondo, surrendered two to become the first ranked woman uprooted - thrashed by Ruta Gerulaitis, Vitas' younger sister, 6-0, 6-2.
Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors, seeded to meet in a rematch of their bruising five-set final last year, had uncomfortable moments before advancing with four-set victories.
Borg was lucky to scramble back from 0-3 in the furth set t Jaime Fillol, 6-4, 6-2, 6-8, 6-4. The the flashy Chilean Davis Cupper hit some soft, dippling returns that made Borg volley up, with little penetration, but he was missing by a hair on his passing shots.
Connors looked slightly winded after losing the third set tie breaker to Tom Gorman, 7 points to 5 but served and volleyed ferociously when he was in trouble. He broke to 3-1 in the fourth set, ripping three service returns after a Gorman double-fault, one that forced a half-volley error and two for clean winners, and served out from there.
Connors played well, considering the conditions - a tricky breeze (Gorman wore a rubber corset to keep the muscles of his ailing back warm against the chill), uneven turf, and the noisy claustrophobia of court No. 2.
In the ninth game of the third set, Connors sprinted wide for a forehand and hurtled into the crowd. He lay on the court for half a minute, favoring his left ankle, but it was all right. A minute later, he was running flat out again, playing the game the only way he knows. He won, 6-4, 8-6, 8-9, 6-3.
Roscoe Tanner, The No. 6 seed, broke Fred McNair at 4-4 in the first set, weathered three points for the break back, then rolled to a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory.
"I misfired today, I just never got rolling," said McNair, from Chevy Chase, Md. "It was all downhill from there, and in the last two sets Roscoe returned superbly. His return was a stronger weapon than his serve today."
Ilie Nastase, his face stubbled since he has vowed not to shave until he is out of the tournament, played some lovely touch shots on Center Court to thwart Tom Gullikson, the left-hander of the 25-year-old identical twins from Onalaska, Wis., 6-4, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3. Brother Tim served and volleyed forthrightly in dispatching Billy Martin, 6-3, 9-7, 7-5.
At the end of the long day, the men's fourth-round pairings shaped up this way: Borg vs. Australian Geoff Masters. Wojtek Fibak vs. Sandy Mayer, Tom Okker vs. Tom Leonard, Nastase vs. Tanner, Gottfried vs. Tim Gullikson, Hank Pfister vs. Vitas Guerulaitis, Raul Ramirez vs. John Newcombe and John Alexander vs. Connors.
The women's draw at the same stage: Evert vs. Kerry Reid, Barker vs. King, Wade vs. Gerulaitis Jausovec vs. Wendy Turnbull, Betty Stove vs. Virginia Ruzici, Marsikova (who won the day's longest women's match, over Californian Kathy May, 4-6, 6-2, 13-11) vs. Evonne Goolagong Cawley, from Holtz vs. Marise Kruger and Navratilova vs. 15-year-old Tracy Austin.
Barker came back from 2-6, 2, and three match points in two different games to eliminate 15-year-old Pam Shriver of Lutherville, Md., 2-6, 8-6, 7-5.
Schriver, playing on Centre Court for the first time, served and volleyed beautifully, pryed o Barker's shaky backhand and did everything necessary to win. But on the match points, she seemed suddenly to remember where she was.
Shriver led, 5-3, in the third set, but played a terribly nervous game as she served for the match again, double-faulting to start it and pushing a forehand volley long to lose it.
At the end, she sobbed as she remembered her lost opportunities. But her coach, Don Candy, took the result philosophicaly.
"Pammy did everything she had to, technically, to win. It wasn't a matter of forehands and backhands. She wasn't quite tough enough mentally.
"It takes some experience to know how to win a Wimbledon.