Tom Gorman, 34 years old and about seven years past his prime, won the first set from defending champion Bjorn Borg on Wimbledon's Centre Court today, and stood poised at 4-4, 15-40 on Borg's serve in the second set.

Both players felt the pressure. Only Borg responded positively.

On those two critical break points, Gorman hit a backhand cross-court passing shot wide, and then Borg rifled one for a winner as Gorman came steaming to the net behind a good sliced backhand approach shot.

"The first point, I kind of changed my mind just as I hit the ball. I decided to hit out at the last second, but guided it instead," said Gorman.

"The second was a typical Borg shot under pressure. I knew he was going cross court, but it was too good. There was nothing I could do. I just have to consider that a great shot."

One game later, Gorman netted a smash at 30-40 to lose the set. In the space of two games, the complexion of the match, potentially a spectacular upset of the sort Gorman accomplished against a then-supreme Rod Laver en route to the semifinals here in 1971, had changed.

Borg - Who last year was down two sets to one and 1-3 in the fourth set against Victory Amaya in the first round but went on to win his third consecutive Wimbledon singles title - lost his serve to 4-5 in the third set today.

But when Gorman served for the set, he double-faulted to 0-30, served an ace, then double-faulted again to lost his serve.

Reprieved, Borg held easily for 6-5, and then Gorman double-faulted twice more in the next game to lose his serve again. And the set.

"After that, it went like a steamroller," said Gorman, who played well except in the most important games and lost, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-1.

"It's been probably a year or a year and a half - at least since I played Jimmy Connors here last year - that I've been in that kind of a pressure situation, and I just got a little tentative, a little nervous.

"Up to then I had been very pleased with my timing on my serve and volleys. But in those crucial situations, you've got to face it: I had forgotten what the pressure was like. It's easy to hold your serve at 1-all in the first set, but at 5-4 and 5-6 in the third, I serve double-faults.

"I played him the way I wanted to. I wanted to attack him, to make him know I was coming in on every second serve . . . It was working, but you have to face pressure situations frequently in order to know how to handle them."

Borg, who says the first couple of rounds of any tournament are more difficult for him than the last ones, admitted that he was just happy to escape today.

Jimmy Connors wore white tassles, a la Muhammad Ali, at the top of his midcalf socks for his first-round match against French left-hander Jean Francois Caujolle.

They looked dazzling as Connors ran and jumped and lunged for volleys, but they didn't help him put away the light-hitting Caujolle, who has little experience on or liking for grass courts.

Connors did come back from 2-5 in the second set, saving two set points at 2-5, three at 3-5, and another at 4-5 - only to net a forehand return and lose the tie breaker, 7 points to 5.

By then it was 8:15 p.m., and shafts of light cast strange patterns on Court No. 1, which was four-fifths covered by shadows. The dying sunlight gleamed eerily off Connors' steel racket. Connors did win the third set, but darkness fell and forced the march to be suspended overnight with him leading, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5, 2-1.

It will be resumed Tuesday, with or without tassles.