Budge Patty Wimbledon champion in 1950, is here playing doubles with Gardner Mulloy as he does every year. I asked him how he felt the night before he played Frank Sedgman for the championship 30 years ago.
"I slept like a baby," Patty replied. "Although I had won the French title two weeks before, I was still only seeded fourth. The pressure was all on Sedge.
"I never got nervous till the car brought me through the southeast gate."
Most players echo Patty's sentiments; you've gotten this far, why spoil an already marvelous accomplishment by working yourself into a nervous wreck?
I confessed to Patty that I had felt the same way just five years ago in my final against Jimmy Connors. I wasn't nervous at all the night before, although in essence the final begins the moment both semifinal matches are finished.
I had dinner with friends at the Playboy Club, and I'll never forget playing a little blackjack around 12:15 a.m. We had all been going back and forth, winning and losing.
Impulsively, I then put 50 pounds ($140) out there in those days -- a big bet for me. I promptly got blackjack, picked up my 75 pounds ($210), said "Lady Luck is smiling on me already," and went back to my hotel to sleep. (Ashe beat Connors in five sets.)
Bjorn Borg, on the other hand, lives in Monte Carlo but never gambles, no matter how small the wager. This spring during a tournament in Las Vegas, I passed him going to dinner and asked him how he was doing at the tables. He thought I was talking about furniture.
If Borg finds himself in the final, he will sleep nine hours Friday night and dream about spin serves. He will get up at 9:30 and have a continental breakfast at his hotel. He will go to the Cumberland Club across the street from Wimbledon to practice for 45 minutes.
Borg will eat lunch at the club at 11:30 a.m. while listening to some Greek music piped over the speakers. This is the way it has been since '76. Why change now, after four straight championships?
Evonne Goolagong Cawley finds herself in her fifth Wimbledon final but dearly wants to forget the 1975 encounter when she lost, 6-0, 6-1, to Billie Jean King in 47 minutes. The night before gave her "no reason to think I'd play so poorly. I get a bit nervous like everybody else but I just couldn't pull my game together that day. And Billie Jean was playing very well."
Does a Wimbledon final make you change your normal habits? Evonne replied with an emphatic, "No, because our (her and husband Roger) routine really revolves around our daughter Kelly."
Jimmy Connors echoes these sentiments. If he should reach this year's final, it will be his first one as a father. "My son, Brett, gets up at 6 a.m. and I get up with him. When you deal with an active baby all day, you have no trouble sleeping at night -- finals or no finals."
And where could one find John McEnroe in London the night before a Wimbledon final? At the Hard Rock Cafe, of course, a favorite haunt of young Americans. John likes to sleep late in the mornings and stay out late at night -- just like most 20-year-olds. And tonight will be different if he beats Connors in the semifinals.
Bill Russell said he used to throw up before every game with the Boston Celtics and that he could hardly sleep during the playoffs. Borg says that he has "absolutely no problems sleeping. Maybe I sleep too much sometimes. Even before a Wimbledon final, I have no problems sleeping."
While that admission by Borg is undoubtedly true, it must be noted he'll be playing in his fifth final here Saturday. You can sleep on that.