The rest of the world becomes lunatic under a full moon.Wimbledon is driven mad by a full sun.
On a hot, cloudless day that provoked Centre Court scandal when fans stripped to the waist to get a tan, all hell broke loose at the deliciously elegant and stodgy All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club today.
This 104th opening of the championships offered three shocking upsets of seeded players, including the defeat of No. 4 Ivan Lendl by obscure Australian Charlie Fancutt in five stirring sets.
As if the defeats of Czechoslovakia's Lendl, as well as Victor Pecci (No. 11) and Yannick Noah (No. 13), were not enough for the crowd of 29,852 that strolled among roses and hydrangeas, there was also a huge heaping of English sentiment. All-but-forgotten John Lloyd, the brilliant British grass courter who was 23rd in the world before his marriage to Chris Evert and 350th just months ago, defeated Phil Dent on Court No. 1 after trailing, 3-0, in the fifth set. Lloyd, who only got into the field as a "wild-card" -- that is, a sympathy case -- moved both the crowd and his wife with his gumption.
"Chris told me two minutes ago that seeing me come back and win at Wimbledon meant as much to her as when she won the finals here," said the princely handsome Lloyd.
On a day when Bjorn Borg looked hapless and Jimmy Connors brilliant in their straight-set victories, the headlines in this easily outraged island were grabbed by America's John McEnroe, the walking outrage to manners who has graduated from Superbrat to consummate Superbore.
A racket-smashing McEnroe, the No. 2 seed, received a warning and two penalty points during his otherwise routine 7-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Tom Gullikson, and was just two outbursts away from forfeiting.
The screaming McEnroe called umpire Edward James "an incompetent fool" after the umpire had first warned him for "abusing your racket," then penalized McEnroe a point for yelling: "You guys are the absolute pits of the world, you know that?"
Then, McEnroe committed the almost unthinkable tennis crime of pre-emptively summoning the head referee, Fred Hoyles -- the sanctified guru known as "Wimbledon according to Hoyles" -- and loudly calling him an imbecile.
"Another penalty point, ladies and gentlemen, has been awarded for insulting the referee," intoned umpire James as the No. 1 court crowd cheered wildly.
Even McEnroe was chagrined by his spectacular ill manners, saying: "The whole thing was a fiasco, but it was basically my fault. I was jittery. . . I worry about how I act. I know I'm just hurting myself. . . I expect I'll pay for this (with a fine.)"
Unfortunately for him, McEnroe, 22, pays in ways that, as yet, he has not even begun to guess.
For those with an eye for tennis rather than vulgar theater -- and no other sort of folk are encouraged to come to this shrine -- this crystalline opening day was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for three dogged strugglers: Fancutt, Lloyd and Eric Fromm, the New Yorker who upset Noah.
Just two weeks ago, Lendl was a finalist in the French Open. At dusk today, he was a casualty so stunning that, upon hearing of the result, Lloyd said: "My God, that's unbelievable."
Not to the rugged, 6-foot Fancutt, a blond 22-year-old whose parents both played at Wimbledon. "I couldn't sleep the night before," said Fancutt, the 194th-ranked player in the world, "because I sensed my chances were so much better than Ivan probably thought they were."
Fancutt and Lendl are friends from junior days and on Sunday, Lendl said teasingly, "I'm going to be getting that backhand of yours again," remembering their previous meeting on clay when Lendl won, 6-1, 6-0. Fancutt liked his chops. "I've got a new topspin backhand Lendl hadn't seen," he said. "Grass is my best surface, and not his. And I've been studying tapes with Ken Rosewall, learning grass court strategy."
The result was a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory in which the aggressive, never-doubting Fancutt -- whose greatest previous achievement was "winning a set from Arthur Ashe once, I guess" -- lost only three points on his service in the crucial one-sided fifth set. Lendl fled the grounds without comment.
Just as nonplused and perhaps even more charming was Fromm, ranked 124th in the world, who said: "I didn't expect to win, though I probably shouldn't say that. I planned to come mostly as a spectator."
Fromm, a 22-year-old from Queens who is constantly asked if he is related to the psychologist of the same name, beat the drowning Noah with ease, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
"No, I'm not related to the other Fromm, but I did major in psychology for two years at Columbia University," said a laughing Fromm, who was so bad this winter, dropping out of the world's top 300, that he drifted to Argentina to find easier pickings.
Until this afternoon, Noah was the draw, profiting from the exodus of injured No. 5 seed Gene Mayer. Knowing he didn't need to beat a seed to reach the quarterfinals, the hungry Noah practiced five hours a day for 10 straight days on grass to make the most of such a windfall. He was primed.
Fromm, on the other hand, was totally at sea. "They're real generous with practice time here (at Wimbledon) -- a half-hour a year," said Fromm, sarcastically and accurately. "And I took it. That's my total preparation on grass."
While Fromm chattered and beamed, a man was being kept waiting outside the door: Borg. The Swede, who ran his match streak here to 36, deserved to cool his heels after his perfunctory win over Peter Rennert, 7-6, 6-3, 6-1. Borg looked bad in the first set, offering Rennert five break points that he refused to accept.
Borg whiffed a forehand. Borg lost his racket on a serve and had nothing but his foot with which to attempt a return. And he missed 24 of his first 30 first serves. Eventually, he steadied. Nonetheless, the highlight of the day's inaugural match was the umpire's hushed and horrified request: "Will the people with their shirts off please put them back on."
"Man or woman, was it, governor?" cackled a Cockney voice.
Finally, at sundown, after a long afternoon in which No. 9 seed Jose-Luis Clerc barely escaped from Alvaro Fillol in five sets, while old Ilie Nastase was not so lucky, losing in five to Sandy Mayer, the final curtain came down on two men -- one redeeming himself, the other embarrassing himself.
The red face belonged to Pecci, a 7-6, 6-0, 6-0 loser. After losing a tough tie breaker to Bill Scanlon in the first set, Pecci might as well have quit. "Victor's mind was in the showers after one set," wrote Paraguay's leading tennis journalist of his countryman, "and his body was soon to follow."
If Pecci was shamed, Lloyd was proud. "I admire my wife for her concentration, her will to win," said Lloyd, a 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner. "I think a little of that has rubbed off on me. I had a stretch of a set and a half where the old 'I'm not going to win' attitude arrived. But, before the fifth, I said to myself, 'You're going to play the set of your life, now aren't you?' "
And, bringing tears to his wife's eyes, he did.