It struck Ken Rosewall as soon as he defeated Rod Laver that if he never plays another tennis match in Washington, last night would be a wonderful way to be remembered.
"What a nice swan song that would be, beating Rod Laver," Rosewall said after winning the men's singles title, 6-4, 7-5, in the E.F. Hutton Champions tournament at George Washington University's Smith Center.
Rosewall, 51, said he "supposed" he would "go on for a couple more years."
But he said the constant traveling from his home in New South Wales, Australia, is beginning to wear on him and there is no doubt he is getting close to the end of his Grand Masters career.
"We're all competitive," Rosewall said. "You'd like to think you're playing to a standard that is not disappointing to the crowd. They remember you when you were young. But you want to play well now, too."
Not to worry. Rosewall played his usual consistent game and received some help from Laver's uncharacteristic serve and forehand to earn the $7,500 top prize. Laver received $5,000 for second place.
After tiring each other out, Rosewall and Laver lost the men's doubles final to Fred Stolle and Roy Emerson, 6-4, 6-3. The all-Australian doubles was the last event of this four-day tournament.
Laver had two problems last night -- a light racket and a streaky serve. The racket could be changed. The serve could not.
Laver, who said he was hitting "too quick" with the first racket, changed to one with tape around the edge after the fifth game of the first set, but by then he was down, 4-1.
He broke Rosewall's serve and held his next serve to move to within 4-3, but lost the next game at love, popping a forehand service return high and wide at 40-love.
Laver held to pull to 5-4, but lost the set on Rosewall's serve. A questionable line call on Rosewall's second serve at 40-30 doomed Laver. When the serve was ruled in, Rosewall drove a passing shot past Laver at the net to end the set.
Undaunted, Laver jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second set, then a 5-2 advantage. He worked Rosewall to deuce in the eighth game, but never had a set point.
Rosewall won that game, then kept right on winning, breaking Laver twice to win the match.
The strangest game came at 5-5, with Laver serving. He led, 40-15, then double-faulted three times in a row.
With Rosewall holding the advantage, Laver got his second serve in but, after a short rally, hit a forehand long and Rosewall won the game.
He finished the match when Laver drove a backhand into the net at 40-15.
"The wheels came off there," Laver said. "My toss was the main thing, I think. I just couldn't get into a rhythm. I was probably going for a little too much, the big ace, and then put too much pressure on my second serve."
Said Rosewall: "We all go in patches nowadays."
This match lasted just a little more than an hour, quite a bit shorter and sweeter than the best-known Rosewall-Laver contest: a four-hour, five-set victory by Rosewall in the 1972 World Championship of Tennis final in Dallas.
That televised match is credited with helping establish tennis as a viable video sport.
"That's the most memorable," Rosewall said, "but I imagine there were other memorable games in the backwoods of some little town somewhere in the United States or Europe or Australia, too."