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Tennis' Old Guard

A New Senior Tour is restaging Some of the Great Court Rivalries of the Past 20 Years
Joel Drucker
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 7)

Bjorn Borg smiles.

It is a friendly smile, a nice, appreciative opening that reveals more of his teeth than we'd ever seen back in the old days. Because it's so rare, the smile comes off as strikingly genuine, neither as posed as Connors' nor as anguished as McEnroe's.

Borg takes the first set, 6-4. Connors and Lloyd are among those enjoying the action from up in the Nuveen box. At five-all in the second, with the sun shining over Monterey and the intimate crowd of 3,000 packed in nicely, with the ABC crew moving in for close-ups and the national TV audience savoring the sounds delivered by several on-court microphones, it's hard to imagine a better tennis moment.

McEnroe squeaks through the second set, 7-5. Borg goes up a service break in the third, but the lefty continues moving forward, striking his volleys, coaxing Borg into awkward positions, and at last, after two-plus hours, wins the match, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Connors-McEnroe is also entertaining. Time was when the old guard attendees at this event would have considered each a punk. But now, the revolutionary is the familiar, an athletic Golden Oldies program. Early in the match, Connors initiates his customary banter with the crowd. To the introverted McEnroe, it comes off as demagoguery.

"If you don't go along with Jimmy's thing," says McEnroe, "you're the heavy. He makes jokes at your expense. It gets to be a little frustrating that people can be manipulated so easily."The clay that helped Borg also aids Connors. Jimbo's returning serve well, picking up McEnroe's service toss and ripping it back, pounding his ground strokes and charging forward.

"You the man, Jimbo!" shouts one fan after a long rally.

Five seconds elapse without a comment. Connors is wandering behind the baseline.

"Man, oh man," exults Connors, "I bet you stayed up all night thinking up that one."

Even the guy who shouted the remark is laughing.


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