Jimmy Connors reached the quarterfinals of the French Open Tennis Championships today when his fourth-round opponent, exciting young Frenchman Nannick Noah, had to default after injuring himself in a spectacular tumble on the center court at Stade Roland Garros.
Connors had won the first set, 7-5, after Noah served for it at 5-4. Noah saved a set point on his serve at 4-5, 30-40 in the second set, but took a bad spill on the next point after racing 40 feet in a desperate, vain attempt to reach Connor's drop shot.
After a three-minute delay, during which many in the crowd of 17,000 agonized with their 20-year-old favorite son, Noah tried to continue. But, in Connors' apt description, "He looked like a wounded colt."
Noah played one point, but was unable to move and lost it to drop the set. He then forlornly signaled the umpire that he was unable to continue. Match to Connors, 7-5, 6-4, retired.
Trainer Bill Norris, who attended Noah, said he had severely pulled the aductor muscle in the back of his upper right thigh, and that it "couldn't bear weight."
With treatment and seven to 10 days of rest, Norris said, Noah might be able to play for France in a Davis Cup series against Czechoslovakia in Prague, June 13-15, and should be ready for Wimbledon, which starts June 23.
"I've never played through so many different conditions in one tournament," said Brian Gottfried, who upset the No. 9 seed, Yvan Lendl, 25, of Czechslovakia, 2-6, 7-6, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, in a match that had been suspended by rain at two sets apiece Saturday evening.
"That's part of being a major championship," Gottfried said. "I've always thought that someone is up there looking down on the majors and saying, 'I'm going to make these three or four tournaments as tough as I can.'" Gottfried, who saved a match point on Lendl's serve at 5-4, 40-30, on a passing shot down the line, had lost to Lendl the last two times they played on clay.
Two others who completed rain-delayed third-round victories were No. 4 seed Guillermo Vilas, who finished off Englishman Buster Mottram, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, and No.6 seed Harold Solomon, who ousted fellow American Van Winitsky, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.
Joining Connors in the quarterfinals were No. 4 seed Vitas Gerulaitis, No. 10 Hans Gildemeister and No. 13 Wojtek Fibak.
Gerulaitis made quick work of Ferdi Taygan, 6-3, 7-5, 6-1, but Gildemeister -- the unorthodox Chilean Davis Cupper -- battled until 9:35 p.m. before putting away Raul Ramirez, a semifinalist here in 1976, 3-6, 6-3, 0-6, 6-3, 10-8.
Gildemeister led, 5-2, in the final set but lost his lead and had to break back when Ramirez served. Walloping his two-fisted strokes off both wings Gildemeister ran the last three games of a match that kept the center court stands crowded and lively until nighfall.
Fibak, the effervescent Pole who seems charmed by Pope John Paul II's visit to France, advanced to a quarter final meeting with Gerulaitis by beating Paul McNamee, the Austrailian who upset No. 2 seed John McEnroe Friday, 6-4, 6-4, 6-8, 6-3.
"McNamee is getting very tough," said Fibak. "He's one of the quickest players, but I think he was probably too overenthusiastic after beating McEnroe. I don't think it's very easy for a player ranked about No. 50 in the world to beat the No. 2, then to have to come right back and prove it was no mistake against someone ranked 15. There was more pressure on him than me."
Chris Evert Lloyd, the defending champion and No. 1 seed in the women's singles, lost the first set and twice was down a service break in the second before pulling out a perilous, 2-1/2-hour victory over 16-year-old Bettina Bunge, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Bunge -- 5-feet-8, 115 pounds and nicknamed "String Bean" -- was born in Switzerland of German parents, grew up in Peru and moved to her current hometown of Coral Gables, Fla., in 1977. She is one of the most promising and engaging young players on the women's tour.
She jumped on Evert early, attacked her vulnerable forehand with great success and seemed destined for a major upset when she broke serve for 3-1 and 4-3 leads in the second set.
Evert played her best game of the match to break back to 4-4 at love, however, saved one break point to hold for 5-4 and forced a volleying error with a sharply angled cross-court forehand to win the set after Bunge staved off three set points.
"I thought about losing when I was 3-4 down in the second," Evert said. "It seemed a reality, like maybe I was meant not to win today."
"Bettina adjusted to the weather a lot better than I did," Evert said. "I was struggling. Her slice shots were very effective in the wind. I hit the ball flatter, and it wasn't doing anything. She was using her drop shot, just handling the wind and the rain better than I was."
Also advancing to the women's quarterfinals were Kathy Jordan, who beat Sylvia Hanika, 6-1, 6-2; Hana Mandikova, who jarred Petra Delhees, 6-1, 6-2, and Ivanna Madruga, the right-hander from Argentina who beat fourth-seeded Virginia Wade on clay for the fourth time in two months, 6-0, 7-5, 6-2.
The Connors-Noah match was delayed by a downpour, then played in chilly gusts that blew red clay dust in across the court. Eventually all the top dressing was blown away, leaving the clay as hard as cement.
The quality of the match was as shifting as the weather, which alternated from sunshine to overcast and sprinkles. Connors led, 4-2, in the first set, lost three straight games, then wonthree to snatch it from the 6-foot-4 Noah's long-armed grasp.
From 4-4 in the first, Connors said, he was determined to play as if on a hard court, attacking any short ball off Noah's topspin forehand or slice backhand. Noah made too many unforced errors, but also some remarkable "gets," and he, too, started to get to the net more often.
But at 4-5, deuce in the second set, on a scrambling, all-court point, Noah blocked a backhand just over the net off a Connors smash from 10 feet behind the baseline.
Connors improvised a drop shot. Noah seemed too far away to reach the ball, but dashed 40 feet and lunged for a backhand scoop. As he did, his feet went out from under him, he almost did a split and wrenched his right leg grotesquely underneath him.
A grimace of pain and alarm spread across his face. Connors hurried around the net to help him up, but Noah crumbled as he tried to put weight on his right foot.
After three minutes, Noah tried to resume play, the back of his shirt and shorts caked in clay. He missed his first serve and winced. He put his second in court, started to the net, stopped short, tried to change direction and move to his left leg. He went nowhere, Connors' return plopped in for a winner and everyone knew this promising match was prematurely over.