If you were daring and prepared to go way out on a limb, you might have predicted two weeks ago that two left-handed Americans born in Europe, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova, would win Wimbledon. To have predicted how they would do it was impossible.
It all seemed predictable back then. McEnroe, the runner-up to Jimmy Connors a year ago, would surely face him again for a showdown on Centre Court. Navratilova, who has won 139 matches and lost only four in the last year and a half, would surely get a chance to test herself against Chris Evert Lloyd, who was headed for the Grand Slam.
But it was not to be. And although there were two worthy winners whose names will be etched forever in the places Wimbledon reserves for such etchings, there was no sense of resolution yesterday.
Who could have anticipated that Kevin Curren, the 12th seed, would serve 33 aces, chasing Connors from the tournament in the fourth round? Connors never stopped to say goodbye or even to shower. He gathered his things and headed off in a getaway car, a burgundy Mercedes. "Not a vintage bouquet," said a policeman standing guard at the time.
Connors did not receive the usual fine for avoiding a press conference. In a carefully worded communique, Wimbledon announced it made allowances on some occasions, especially for losers.
Curren had a hand in three of the best matches of the tournament, defeating Connors and Tim Mayotte before losing to Chris Lewis in a glorious five-set semifinal. "I'm a tired man," he said later. "I think I deserve a vacation."
Who could have anticipated that Evert would catch a stomach virus and Kathy Jordan on her best serve-and-volley day? In an odd way, it took a loss like this to realize how extraordinary Evert's record is: never before in 34 Grand Slam events had she not reached the semifinals.
The drama of the first week diluted that of the second. The upsets meant there was nothing to build up to. McEnroe had to play well and did--serving one of the best matches of his career against Ivan Lendl in the semifinals.
Lendl is not quite ready to beat him on grass, which is still McEnroe's turf. But for a man with allergies and a previous third-round best at Wimbledon, this result should be heartening to Lendl, who admitted he would trade all his titles for one Grand Slam win.
This year, Wimbledon produced two champions who were as overwhelming as they were favored, two left-handers with wide, kicking serves and a lovely touch. "Nothing beats playing well," Navratilova said, summing up the situation.
McEnroe's fourth consecutive title, his second Wimbledon win, was as much an anticlimax as it was expected to be. Mercifully swift, he beat Lewis, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, Sunday. It was over in 1 hour 25 minutes.
Lewis, who won only nine points against McEnroe's serve, said, "I don't think there are many players who would have beaten John today."
McEnroe is now ranked No. 2. The last time he won Wimbledon, beating Borg in 1981, he learned how hard it was to be on top and has struggled since to regain that spot and his equilibrium. He believes he can improve if he can harness the demons within him, as he did Sunday on Centre Court. It remains to be seen how much he can improve on either score. "He is an artist with a racket," Lewis said. "He plays so unlike anyone else in the game today."
Which, of course, is exactly what they say about Navratilova. Her 6-0, 6-3 win over Jaeger was as rousing as McEnroe's. It was over in 54 minutes. "Not a thrilling final," she said. "But a satisfying one."
Though she beat the third-ranked player in the world and he beat the 91st, Navratilova's victory was a far truer gauge of her domination of the sport than McEnroe's. It took her under six hours to win this Wimbledon; she never lost a set and dropped only 25 games in seven matches. She has won Wimbledon each of the four times she has reached the final. The only thing left undone is the U.S. Open.
There is simply no one who can play with her, who will play her game. One might hope the success she has found in the attacking serve-and-volley game--McEnroe's game--would encourage some base liners to shake free of their bondage.
But Jaeger, who is as refreshing and spontaneous off the court as her game is steady and predictable on it, said, "I'm not going to rush and crush people. That's not my game. She's also a little bit stronger than me. It's hard for me to do anything better than her if she's doing better than me from the base line."
For Navratilova, there was only one disappointment. As she left for the champions' dinner Sunday night, she said mournfully, "They don't dance any more. I would have enjoyed dancing with John."