If America's John McEnroe doesn't win Wimbledon on the Fourth of July, it won't be because he hasn't dominated the whole event.
Even before Wimbledon began, when McEnroe was raising cain at the queen's club and bad-mouthing the championships, it seemed his semiconscious choice was to take the spotlight away from Bjorn Borg in the one event with which the Swede has become synonymous.
Borg's best-known trait is his love of a completely orderly, self-centered existence. The tournament in which he does least well is the U.S. Open, which is known for its noise, distractions, controversies and general New York City atmosphere of chaos.
New Yorker McEnroe has brought that feeling of deadly earnest farce to Wimbledon for the first time in 104 tournaments. The All England club has never known such a downright declasse fortnight. This week, when a Centre Court doubles match was suspended at 9:30 p.m. for lack of light, the angry crowd threw 100 seat cushions onto the court, one of them hitting a player. London was aghast: "Riot on Centre Court," read the headlines.
It is, of course, all McEnroe's fault. He has turned a stuffy tea party into a brawl.
Again today, while Borg was off practicing for Saturday's rematch with McEnroe in the finals McEnroe was back on center stage causing a furor.
He and partner Peter Fleming, the pair involved in the speeding ticket fiasco last week, actually won the men's doubles championship today, defeating the legendary veterans Stan Smith and Bob Lutz, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, on Centre Court.
McEnroe also discovered today that he had been fined again, this time for $750, but with the strong prospect of at least $2,500 and perhaps $12,500 more to come.
It's a good thing for McEnroe that he will get more than $9,000 for his doubles triumph. If it weren't for that check, McEnroe might finish runner-up in singles, win $22,000 for that and still end up losing money on his trip to England.
McEnroe was fined $1,500 eons ago for his "pits of the world . . . incompetent fool . . . idiot" tirade in his first match. But this morning, McEnroe was nicked for another $750 for an incident few people knew had happened.
In a Wednesday doubles match -- only McEnroe can get in trouble playing doubles -- McEnroe, in the words of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, committed, "verbal abuse of a linesman in that he accused him of being a cheat and being biased in favor of his opponent. Under section 88b (4) (aggravated behavior), an additional fine of $2,500 is recommended.
What ticked off McEnroe was that, while playing the Amritraj brothers from India, Superbrat noticed that the guy who had just stiffed him on a line call happened to be wearing a turban. That was enough for McEnroe. He deduced this fellow was pro-Indian and told him so. Mr. Tact strikes again. d
The fact is that the All England club can't keep up with McEnroe's indiscretions. They're always several days behind The Incredible Sulk. A week ago, the club said that any further shenanigans from McEnroe could cost him $10,000 and a possible future suspension under ATP rules. Does insulting an Indian fall into that category? No decision has been made, as yet.
Once that's decided, the All England club will have to decide what fines and such are appropriate for Thursday's episode, when McEnroe was assessed a warning and penalty point for screaming, "I always get stiffed by the umpires here" and then calling the umpire -- an RAF wing commander -- "a disgrace to mankind."
Will that bring on another $750, plus recommendation for $2,500, ruling? Or will that bring on the $10,000-plus-suspension clause? Or, could McEnroe get two $10,000 fines for two separate instances of "aggravated behavior?"
Believe you me, nobody knows. That's why McEnroe needed to win the doubles. What with the cost of room, board, and gas ($2.70 an imperial gallon) here, plus an occasional speeding ticket, McEnroe may end up in the red in his balance of trade with Britain.
And, don't forget McEnroe may have something special planned for the final.
McEnroe has always been given the benefit of the doubt in the debate over whether his antics are a manifestation of perfectionism or gamesmanship. In the case of Borg here, it begins to look like one-upmanship.
On Thursday, Borg staged the greatest come from behind victory of his career in his 0-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-4, victory over Jimmy Connors in the semis. But McEnroe's vile language in the presence of the future queen won the headlines here.
While creating an unBorglike ethos, McEnroe also has created a rather interesting psychological frame of mind for himself. Whatever the rest of England thinks, he is firmly convinced that he is being systematically persecuted by stuffed-shirt aristocrats and yellow journalists, and that the only way to avenge himself is to break the 41-game streak of England's hero, Borg.
McEnroe is going into what may prove to be a very useful to-hell-with-the-world cocoon in preparation for Borg. "It's only me now," he said today after his doubles win. "You've gotta do it for yourself and nobody else . . . It's there for me to take. Anything less and it'll all sound like sour grapes. You gotta worry about yourself.
"Borg will lose someday. It's gotta happen sooner or later. It's inevitable . . . I've been playing well enough to get by, but I have to put it all together tomorrow."
Perhaps no one here, including McEnroe, completely knows what is going on in his mind. One London psychiatrist was quoted here as calling McEnroe, "a classic example of an hysterical perfectionist."
McEnroe seems too complex to be a classic anything. At times, his self-doubts and anxieties seem to run almost frighteningly deep. The structure of his speech has gotten more and more fragmented until today his elliptical sentence fragments seem on the edge of grinding to an unintelligible halt.
Asked what he thinks about in the last minutes before a match, he said, "Believe it or not, sometimes I just stay in there and tell myself not to say anything . . . I know all this isn't necessary."
Is that really how McEnroe feels?
Or deep down, after five years of facing Borg, does he believe that "all this" is exactly what is "necessary" for victory?