Connors: The Spectrum´s owner

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by kiki, Sep 7, 2013.

  1. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    the US Pro Indoors at Philadelphia´s Spectrum was one of the biggest events of the year in the 70´s and 80´s, the greatest WCT regular tournament and the unofficial indoor world championships.

    Well, Connors lost to Stockton ( 77) and Mac ( 82 ) in two finals..but won a record of 4 titles, beating the best of the best: Bjorn Borg, whom he humilliated in 76, same he did to Tanner in 78 and Ashe in 79.His only hard final came in that classic match that he won against JMac in the 1980 tourney.

    Connors record on hard, grass and har tru makes it sometimes not that evident how sharp, dangerous and powerful he was indoors.Such as his Philadelphia´s results indicate.

    How could he do it? What made the difference? WHAT KEPT HIM GOING?
     
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  2. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    I liked Philadelphia a lot. An excellent and very well run tournament by the Fernbergers.

    Connors's record at the Spectrum from 1976-1980 was outstanding, winning 26 matches out of 27:
    1976 - Champions, destroying Borg in the final (he also beat Stan Smith and Laver at that event)
    1977 - Runner-Up, losing to Stockton in 5 sets in the final
    1978 - Champion, destroying Tanner in the final
    1979 - Champion, beating Tanner in the semis and Ashe in the final
    1980 - Champion, beating Mac in a 5 set final

    In 1980, he was struggling with a groin injury, and nearly pulled out of his semi-final against Mayer, but battled on. Mac had beaten him in their last 2 big matches at Dallas and the US Open in 1979, so Connors was very happy to beat him in the final and put his younger American challenger in his place (for a brief period anyway). That was a very entertaining 5 set match.

    Of course Mac took over Connor's mantle as the king of the spectrum, destroying him in the 1982 final and winning 4 titles in a row there from 1982-1985.

    The 1976 tournament during the Bicentennial year was enjoyable. A lot of people who had previously hated Connors and his behavior really warmed to him that week, with him being very friendly and engaging a lot with the fans, other players and media.

    He showered Laver with praise after their QF, and in the final he was a double break behind in the first set before winning it on a tiebreaker and steamrollering Borg in the next 2 sets. That was actually considered by some members of the media to be his first important victory in a while, which shows how highly regarded the tournament was. After losing in those 3 major finals in 1975, plus in the deciding rubber against Ramirez in the Davis Cup in Mexico, people had questioned his ability in big matches. But after his 1976 title, the headline was 'the kid is back'.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2013
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  3. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yes, Mac beat Lendl in a great 1983 final too.

    Memphis was also big then, the second indoor event in importance held in the US

    Mecir made a name for himself at the 85 Phily event by beating Connors and losing to Mc Enroe in the final.
     
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  4. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    The Spectrum tournament was run by Ed and Marylin Fernberger and was seen as the exemplary tour event of the early open era. It was known for its great crowds, up to 70000 and more people over the week, and it was played on two courts side by side (the old Forest Hills stadium had similar two courts). The 1970 event saw the official beginning of the sudden death tiebreaker in pro tennis, at 6-6 and in the tie breaker at 4-4.
    Laver won the Philadelphia title 4 times, 1969 over Roche, 1970 over Roche, 1972 over Rosewall and 1974 over Ashe, losing the final in 1971 against Newcombe. He had won the US pro indoor title also in 1965 and 1967, both times over Gonzalez, when it was played at Old Armoury Arena in New York.
     
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  5. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    So a three men tie at Philadelphia: mac,Laver and Connors.How fitting¡¡
     
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  6. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    I always felt that indoors on carpet was an ideal to showcase the Connors game. It rewarded his flat aggressive strokes, his return and focused the crowd involvement that stoked his fire. Frankly i was surprised he did not continue with success later in the 80's, but he was usurped by both Mac and Lendl, two absolute greats on carpet.
     
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  7. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Was it 78 or 79 that Connors defeated Tanner, even though Roscoe racked up like 35 aces during the match?
     
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  8. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Connors beat Tanner in 78 (Tanner had knocked out Borg in his quarterfinal) very easily.In 79, Connors needed 4 sets to beat Tanner in their semifinal, after Roscoe beat Mac at the quarters.

    Tanner is, after Connors and Mac, the best player at the US Pro indoors, at least, since 1975.He played the 78 final, the 79 semi and finaly, won the title in 1981, after beating Fibak in the final (Fibak scored his only win against Connors in the former rounds)
     
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  9. WCT

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    The side by side courts is what I remember about that tournament. Back then, you never actually saw it because it was for the earlier rounds and they were never televised. Not where I lived, anyway. Still, they would talk about it in the press coverage, and it was just so unusual. Matches going on at the same time separated by only a few feet.

    If Tanner had 35 aces it would have had to have been the 79 match. I saw the 78 match and it sure didn't happen there. Not enough games. I don't remember reading it about the 79 match either, but it's been a long time. Maybe he did.
     
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  10. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I don´t know if they played before.But 35 aces looks like a five set match, so it should be in 79.

    Tanner may have aced Connors as much in their 1980 Wimbledon quarterfinal.
     
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  11. WCT

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    79 Philly was a 4 setter. I mean the Connors Tanner semi.
     
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  12. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    WCT, there was a somewhat famous photo in Sports Illustrated or maybe it was World Tennis, I can' t remember now but it was a photo of Connors balancing his racquet by the end of the handle with one finger and the caption said something like, "the balanced hand that survived 35 aces and was still able to win". I can't find the photo but it was forever etched in my mind, because here you had the finest returner the game at probably ever seen at that time being aced that many times, it just tells you what Tanner's serve must have been like indoors.
     
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  13. WCT

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    To me, although he had arguably the best return, Connors was not the most difficult player to ace. He would guess sometimes. I've seen Connors aced on points where he was clearly moving in the opposite direction. Again, that doesn't mean he didn't still have the best overall return of serve.
     
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  14. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    After their 1980 W qf, at the press conference Connors said something like that: " When he is on an ace streak, the only thing you can do is let it pass through".

    Their 1979 and 198 Masters matches were also fantastic.I loved when both players played each other at their best.One of the greatest match ups I have seen, definitely
     
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  15. Gizo

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    Connors said that he loved the ‘carnival atmosphere’ at the Spectrum, and that it gave him an advantage over the other players in the field.

    Numerous players complained of the distraction of the two main courts being side by side, but Jimbo loved it. He said that during his R3 match against Fibak in 1979, he kept turning his head to watch and enjoy the Gerulaitis-Kriek match on the other court. He diffused Tanner’s power in his semi that year and was too strong for a veteran Ashe in the final.

    According to various articles at the time, the Ashe-Gerulaitis 5 set semi-final at that year’s event was supposed to have been a classic, with superb all-court tennis and cat and mouse tactics from both players, and a great comeback by Ashe from 2 sets to love down. However I don’t know if a copy of the match is available anywhere.

    A few weeks after the Masters in January had concluded the previous year's season, for many of the top players Philly was their first big event to kick-start the new season.
     
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  16. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    That´s also my recolection of this tournament.The Ashe-Gerulaitis match was one of the best indoor matches of the season.Ashe did have a great first half, reaching three consecutive big finals at New York Masters, where he held a mp against eventual winner Mc Enroe, then Philadelphia ( and probably he ended too tired of his semi and was pretty flat in the final, he was aged 36¡¡) and Memphis, where he beat Tanner in the semis and lost in three sets to Connors.He took the second set from Jimmy, that shows he was much more fresh than in the case of Philadelphia, when Connors had smoked him in straights.The Phily and Memphis semis line up had the very same 4 players.

    He lost to the younger legs of Lendl at RG, then lost to RG finalist Victor Pecci,at the Queen´s club semis and was surprised at Wimbledon by the unknown aussie Chris Kachel ( whom I never heard of again).I think he played his last tournament in Gstaad, a few weeks after Wimbledon.That is when he had his first heart troubles; the rest is history.

    Coming into Philadelphia, there had been a former WCT event held at Birmingham, Alabama.Connors defeated Gerulaitis in three close sets in the semis and beat Dibbs in the final, also in the long distance.Dibbs had beaten Vilas in the other semifinal.

    The 1979 WCT tour was exhilarating.
     
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  17. WCT

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    Birmingham was another tourney where Connors had great success. I think he won it 3, maybe 4 times. Also, hwon Memphis at least 5 times, maybe 6.
     
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  18. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    WCT Tour 1979

    Birmingham: Connors / Dibbs /Gerulaitis/Vilas
    Philadelphia: Connors/Ashe/Tanner/Gerulaitis
    Richmond: Borg/Vilas/Mc Enroe/Ashe
    New Orleans: Mc Enroe/Tanner/Borg/Taygan (Connors lost in the first round to Tom Gullikson, whom Taygan beat later)
    Rotterdam: Borg/Mc Enroe/Fleming/Amritraj
    Milan:Mc Enroe/Alexander/Gerulaitis/Panatta ( Borg lost to Alexander in qf)
    Montecarlo:Borg/Gerulaitis/Pecci/Alexander
    Houston:Higueras/Mayer/Tanner/Orantes
    Dallas Finals: Mc Enroe/Borg/Connors/Gerulaitis

    Dibbs beat Pecci at the WCT Invitational hosted by Forest Hills and Borg beat Connors at the WCT Challenge of Champions played in Montreal.Those two events were non official.

    The WCT Doubles Finals was considered to be the greatest doubles team event in the year, and all the big teams took part.it was played at London´s Albert Hall; in 1979 Fleming and Mc Enroe took the title ( I think the runner ups were Gottfried and Ramirez or Fibak and Okker, not sure right now)
     
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  19. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne G.O.A.T.

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    WCT, If I remember well, Connors won Memphis seven times.
     
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  20. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yes, the last title came in 1984, when he defeated frenchman Henri Leconte
     
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  21. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Tanner was reported in the press to have 16 and 17 aces in those two matches.

    I've got Tanner's ace count in these matches against Jimmy:

    1974 USO – 6 aces
    1975 Wimb – 13
    1976 Wimb – 19
    1977 Challenge Cup – 20
    1978 Philly – 16
    1979 Philly – 17
    1979 Rancho Mirage – 11
    1979 Masters RR – 15
    1980 Wimb – 16
    1981 Masters RR – 12

    I don't know what Tanner's career high in aces might be. Anyone know?

    The highest I know of is 23 aces, in each of 4 matches:

    - vs Borg, Albany, 1972
    - vs Vilas, Wimbledon, 1975
    - vs Dibbs, Philadelphia, 1978
    - vs Wilander, Wimbledon, 1983
     
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  22. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    I know he served 29 aces during his 5 set victory over Teacher in the 1977 NSW Open final in Sydney, but I'm not sure whether that's his career high total.
     
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  23. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    His last great win was vs Wilander at 83 Wimbledon.
     
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  24. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Phily has a glorious story behind it.Ed and Marilyn Fernberger were winning the awards as the best regular tournament organizers very often.
     
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  25. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Thanks, makes sense it would be in a five-setter.

    At the time it was called his personal best: http://news.google.com/newspapers?i...AJ&dq=tanner chris lewis aces&pg=4055,3266420

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?i...AJ&dq=tanner chris lewis aces&pg=3342,5450548

    Interesting, that was just a few days before Tanner went to defend his AO title and got beaten by Chris Lewis in the first round (in another five-setter).
     
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  26. Vegito

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    I fe had not physical problems, Vilas would have won Philadelpia in 1975.
     
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  27. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    He would have won the GS several times :-?
     
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  28. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    The Supreme court ( also named Blue Carpet) of the Spectrum was Connors favourite tournament outside the US Open.He beat the likes of Borg,Laver,Ashe,Mc Enroe,Tanner to win 4 titles, which is a record he shares with Laver and John Mc Enroe.

    In 1982 he lost to Mc Enroe in a straight sets final and in 1977, he was beaten in a five sets final by Dick Stockton.

    the US Pro indoors held at Philadelphia was considered the biggest indoor tournament in the world ( excluding Dallas and MSG) and the most important stop of the WCT tour, ever since its inception in 1971.

    Borg never won there, in spite of playing the 1976 final (lost to Connors).In 1978 he was roundly beaten by Roscoe Tanner in the last eight round and never came back.

    Mc Enroe, in addition to his 4 titles ( defeating Lendl,Gerulaitis,Mecir,Connors) also lost the 1980 final to Connors, in a very close five setter that many considered the best indoor match of the season.

    The other 4 times champion was Laver, who was also defeated in the finals twice: Roche in 69 and Newcombe in 71.

    Other outstanding players there were Ashe ( finalist in 1974 against Laver and in 1979 against Jimbo), Gerulaitis ( finalist in 1975 to Marty Riessen and semifinalist in 1979 and 1982) and, of course, Roscoe Tanner ( who also declared his love to Phily).

    Roscoe beat Borg en route to a final place in the 1978 tournament ( lost in straight sets to Connors), was a semifinalist in 1979 ( again, Connors) and finally won the title he so much seeked when he defeated Wojtek Fibak in 1981 ( Fibak had defeated Connors, for the first time of his life in the third round).
    Phily also had its share of surprises.Riessen was not expected to win the 1975 tournament, and then there were John Sadri in 1980, Pascal Portes and Thierry Tulasne in 1981, Chip Hooper in 1982 reaching the semis and, finally, an unknown Miloslav Mecir, who introduced himself to the tennis world when he reached the 1985 F ( lost to Mc Enroe but beat Connors in the semis)
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2014
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  29. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne G.O.A.T.

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    kiki, What about Memphis (US Indoors)? Connors won it seven times.
     
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  30. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yeah¡¡

    Curiously the 4 men who played the semis at 79 Philadelphia did play the semis at 79 Memphis.

    and both, the 1979 and 1980 final of both events was the very same.In 1979 it was Connors vs Ashe and in 1980 it was Connors vs Mc Enroe

    In 1984 Connors won Memphis for the last time beating french Leconte.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
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  31. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne G.O.A.T.

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    kiki, Thanks for these interesting statistics. I was not aware of them.

    Interesting also: Old Ashe (35) was able to win a set from peak Connors in that 1979 Memphis tournament.
     
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  32. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    1979 Ashe was last version of Ashe but an excellent one¡¡¡

    He started the season with a Masters F against Mac. he had a mp but squandered it off and Mc Enroe won his first major.

    At Phili he beat Vilas in the last 16 and saved a mp at the semis vs Vitas.1-6,4-6,7-6,6-4,6-4¡¡ not bad ¡¡
    At Memphis, he beat Tanner in his sf.

    His last good result in his entire life came on grass, which was his best surface.SF at the Queen´s where Pecci beat him.
     
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  33. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    You are talking about Tanner, yes?
     
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  34. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yes, Roscoe Tanner
     
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  35. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

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    Sampras won his first title at the Spectrum in 1990, beating Gomez in the final. Who would have thought back then that both players would go on to win majors later on that year?

    The 2 indoor titans Lendl and Sampras squared off there twice. Lendl came back from a set and a break down win their 1991 final in 5 sets, firing down 23 aces, and then also won their 1993 semi-final.
     
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  36. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I think Tanner also defeated Mc Enroe at Richmond 1983.Not sure, should check.But what seems clear to me is that 83 was the last year when he pulled up some good scalps, although he was not nearly as consistent as in his prime.

    Probably, Tanner last important title came, as I mentioned before here, at 81 Philadelphia.That was also his last consistent year, reaching a spot at the 1981 Masters, played in Jan 1982.

    In 82 he had a big big slump and fared very poorly.
     
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  37. Vegito

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    Guillermo Vilas in Philadelphia WCT:

    21.01.1974; GP; Indoor: Carpet; Draw: 128

    Round Opponent Ranking Score
    R128 Cliff Drysdale (RSA) N/A L 4-6, 1-6
    --------------------------------------------------------

    20.01.1975; GP; Indoor: Carpet; Draw: 128

    Round Opponent Ranking Score
    R128 Bye N/A W
    R64 Raymond Moore (RSA) N/A L W/O
    ---------------------------------------------------------


    22.01.1979; GP; Indoor: Carpet; Draw: 64

    Round Opponent Ranking Score
    R64 Bye N/A W
    R32 Buster C. Mottram (GBR) N/A W 6-4, 6-3
    R16 Arthur Ashe (USA) N/A L 3-6, 5-7
     
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  38. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Vilas never did too well at the Spectrum.However, he still did pretty well indoors, with several Masters semis and that WCT final he lost to Borg.

    If I am not wrong, his last indoor final happened in Rotterdam 1983, against Peter Mc Namara.After which came the drugs scandal that finished Vilas off.
     
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  39. KG1965

    KG1965 Hall of Fame

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    Indoor monster

    Kiki, US Indoor to Phila were top tournament '70. The 4° slam (with Las Vegas Alan King Classic & Palm Springs/La Quinta, right now Indian Wells).
    Connors destroys Borg in 1976. In 80 wins vs Mac (you can see full final in 5 sets, marvelous).
    In carpet indoor Connors have been the top four all time (with Gonzales, Mac & Lendl).
    Wins Wembley (Dewar Cup) 74+76+81 (vs Mac in 5 sets, see youtube full final).
    US International to Birmingham 77+79+80 & US National to Memphis 78+79+82+83, Japan Indoor to Tokyo 80+84 (vs Lendl see Youtube), Masters WCT to Dallas 1977+80 and Master GP 1977 (vs Borg youtube).
    A monster.
     
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  40. KG1965

    KG1965 Hall of Fame

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    U.S. Indoor notes

    Notes:
    U.S. Indoor (to Philadelphia).... TOP TOURNAMENT

    U.S. National Indoor (to Salisbury up to 1976, and then to Memphis).
    Salisbury...best tournament I.P.A.-Riordan Circuit, type M250;
    Memphis... type M500 seventies years and M1000 eighties years.

    U.S. International Indoor (Birmingham) (little tournament I.P.A.-Riordan Circuit up to 1976, and them good tournament 1977 and 1978, TOP TOURNAMENT 1979 and 80);
     
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  41. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    KG1965, Philadelphia is one of my all time favourite tournaments.It was considered the unofficial world´s indoor championship and the second greatest WCT event after the Dallas finals.In the 70´s and 80´s, both, WCT Finals and Masters had slam like status, much over the Australian Open.

    Memphis was, along Tokyo, the second and third greatest indoor event.There were lots of important tournaments on carpet ( in Europe and USA ) that were central to the Grand Prix and WCT structures.Then, most of the big unofficial invitationals were also played on carpet.Except Boca Raton and Forest Hills, which were played on har tru, the whole rest of the important invitational tournments were played on the " blue Supreme carpet" which is such a simbol of the so called Golden Era.I recall Las Vegas WCT, Chicago,Munich,Frankfurt,Milano,Antwerp,Montreal and the Europe vs Americas in Spain and the Akai challenge series in Australia as the big invitational tournaments of the second half of the 70´s and the first half of the 80´s.

    For us, tennis fans of that era, those tournament have a very special value.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
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  42. KG1965

    KG1965 Hall of Fame

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    SPORT ILLUSTRATED
    IT WAS A GRAVE ENDING FOR ARTHUR

    Much to Ashe's disgust, the talk at the U.S. Pro Indoor in the Spectrum at Philadelphia was all about how he had risen from the ashes—but he had come back and oh so splendidly, until Jimmy Connors laid him to rest in the finals

    By E. M. Swift


    Feb. 05, 1979


    [​IMG]

    Original Layout

    There is nothing—not a sleigh ride, not a bowl of homemade ice cream, not Leave It to Beaver—that makes one long for the old days more than a modern professional tennis tournament. Tennis has become a game dominated by men-children who strut and fret their hour upon the stage, full of sound, all right, and occasionally fury, signifying, well...what does a year-end $300,000 bonus to Eddie Dibbs, winner of four tournaments out of 27 entered in 1978, signify to you?

    The old days may be gone, but Arthur Ashe, thank God, is not, and neither is his tennis game. The 35-year-old Ashe served due notice of that last week in the U.S. Pro Indoor Championships against what in all likelihood will be the third-strongest field of the entire year, after Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Sixteen of the top 22 players in the world were in Philadelphia, and the only really big name missing was Bjorn Borg, who makes his 1979 debut this week in Richmond. Which meant that there were few easy picks. En route to the finals, Ashe had to upset the likes of sixth-seeded Brian Gottfried, fourth-seeded Vitas Gerulaitis and second-seeded Guillermo Vilas. Waiting for him was defending champion Jimmy Connors, crown prince of the strutters and fretters. The two had not met in a tournament of consequence since 1975 at Wimbledon, when Ashe triumphed by throwing Connors an array of off-speed junk that would have made Luis Tiant proud.

    But Connors' game has matured since then, and what little junk Ashe could muster on Sunday was turned against him. Connors defeated the veteran in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-1, collecting the $40,000 winner's share and his third U.S. Pro Indoor title in the last four years. Ashe tried five drop shots during the match, and Connors converted all five into winners—as well as nearly everything else Ashe threw at him. To be fair, Ashe's undoing was as much a result of his grueling five-set win over Gerulaitis in the semis as it was of Connors' deftness. "My body felt as if somebody beat it with a stick," Ashe said afterward.

    He was a step behind Connors' ground strokes all afternoon, and time after time faulty footwork caused him to make numerous unforced errors. "You can only play as well as the other guy lets you play," he said. "Jimmy hits the ball in a straight line. Everybody else hits it in a parabola, which gives you an extra second to get there."

    Once again it was Connors' service return—the best in the game—that was especially devastating. He has moved in a step and feels he is returning better now than when he won the U.S. Open in September. Against Ashe he hit 15 outright winners off the serve. Ashe hit only one off Connors.

    Connors' route to the finals was something of a strut down the yellow brick road. No fret, no sweat. His first two victims—Van Winitsky (6-4, 6-3) and Eric van Dillen (6-1, 6-1)—didn't even qualify for the tournament. They were what is known as "lucky losers"—alternates who wait around at the start of a tournament to replace any qualifiers who drop out for one reason or another. Connors finally had some opposition in his third match, defeating 15th-seeded Wojtek Fibak of Poland 6-4, 7-6. The match was close only because Connors consistently sprayed unforced forehand errors into the net while keeping one eye on the acrobatic Gerulaitis-Johan Kriek match on the next court, one eye on Fibak and his mind on a heckler in the stands. "I wanted to tell the heckler a few things," he said afterward, "then I wanted to watch the other match. I didn't even want to play mine."

    Connors wasn't alone. In fact, nearly everyone complained of the distractions. The tournament is held in the Spectrum, and up until the semifinals the matches are played simultaneously on two courts set 12 feet apart. Balls bounce indiscriminately from one to the other. "Let" calls made on Court 1 are adhered to on Court 2. Connors went so far as to admit that the carnival atmosphere gave him an advantage over the field, because he was "flaky" anyway.

    But it wasn't supposed to be so easy. After crushing Geoff Masters of Australia 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals, Jimbo was expected to meet the new kid on the block, John McEnroe. It was the match people had been awaiting for weeks, or since Jan. 11, when Connors was forced to default to McEnroe because of a blistered toe when trailing by a set and a break in the Masters in Madison Square Garden.

    Connors publicly pooh-poohed any special desire to give McEnroe his comeuppance, but, in fact, he was miffed at several of McEnroe's statements questioning the professionalism of defaulting with no more than a blistered toe. Incidentally, that selfsame toe, cushioned by two layers of socks and a coating of foot powder, was fresh from a victory in Birmingham. For his part, McEnroe was looking forward to meeting Connors, mainly because he was certain he would win.

    But something happened. McEnroe has been the world's greatest tennis player the past three months, but in the quarterfinals he faced a southpaw he soon began to wish hadn't come to the party—Roscoe Tanner, he of the howitzer serves. McEnroe lost 7-6, 6-2. Going back to the U.S. Open, McEnroe had won five singles tournaments, a doubles tournament and two Davis Cup matches. But in Philadelphia, Tanner had a streak of his own going; he had held every service after the first game of his first match, a span of 60 games. The string wasn't broken by McEnroe. Tanner hit 20 outright winners off his serve and countless others that provided easy putaways.

    It was a very patterned match. Both players served and volleyed every point, so there were no baseline exchanges. The points were short, pitting Tanner's power against McEnroe's quickness and finesse. However, McEnroe repeatedly missed his passing shots on the critical points, and after failing on three set points at 6-5 of the first set, he never came close to breaking Tanner's serve again. Tanner won the tie-breaker 7-3, and broke McEnroe in the second game of the second set when the Stanford dropout netted three volleys. It was more or less typical of McEnroe's night when he laid off an easy putaway at match point, thinking it would go out. It didn't, but McEnroe did.

    Afterward, McEnroe gave Tanner his due and talked numbly about cutting back on his schedule. He had been in Las Vegas the week before, filming a movie with Dean Martin Jr. and Ali MacGraw, which is hardly recommended as a way to rest. McEnroe plays himself in the movie, uttering three lines, easily the most difficult of which is "Don't choke, Pancho." He also spoke about the Supreme Court surface being "a little faster than I thought." When asked about the remark, Ellen Fernberger, a tournament official, pointed down to Court No. 1. "You see that court. That isn't just the same type of court he won the Masters on two weeks ago. That is the court." It had simply been rolled up and shipped from New York to Philly. Maybe McEnroe really meant that Roscoe's service was faster than he thought.

    Once the Connors-McEnroe match failed to materialize, Ashe was the one consistently bright spot of the tournament. He had won this event once before—way back when Lyndon Johnson was President—and had the crowd solidly behind him throughout. Ashe seems to have completely recovered from a heel injury that required surgery in February of 1977 and kept him out of action nearly an entire year. "I never dreamed I would come back this far," he said early in the week. "My original goal was just to make it back to the top 20."

    Seeded 10th, Ashe opened the tournament by beating South Africa's Bernie Mitton (6-2, 7-6) and Marty Riessen (6-1, 4-6, 6-4) and protesting newspaper accounts that made it sound as if he had one foot in the grave. "I'm tired of all this," he said. "I'm not coming back from anywhere. I'm just playing tennis."

    In the third round he faced Vilas, who was coming back from Down Under, not the grave. Vilas has been making a concerted effort to improve his play on faster surfaces, and in December he went to Australia, where he won that country's Open on grass against a mediocre field. But Ashe proved that Vilas has a long way to go before he will win anything big on a surface other than clay, beating him 6-3, 7-5. The one thing Ashe wanted to avoid was long baseline exchanges. "I'd lose 80% of those against Vilas. I need to play as many points as possible on one-third of the court"—meaning from the service line in.

    That's exactly what he did, coming to the net at every opportunity, including behind Vilas' shallow second serve, and volleying, as he put it, "decisively." His serve, as is always the case when Ashe is on his game, was humming. The rout of Vilas enabled him to advance to the quarterfinals, where he beat Brian Gottfried—strong, affable, with an unenviable knack for giving away important points—6-4, 7-5.
     
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  43. KG1965

    KG1965 Hall of Fame

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    ...Gerulaitis was Ashe's opponent in the semis, having advanced there with wins over Zjelko Franulovic of Yugoslavia, Kriek and Harold Solomon. By far the best of these was his match with Kriek, who may be the tour's fastest player. Gerulaitis is probably the second-fastest and, without question, is the whining-est, stomping about after every close call like the Little League pitcher who can't believe he has walked the bases full. Kriek was up a set and a break before Gerulaitis lifted his game and won 7-5 in the third, in the most scintillating tennis of the tournament.

    And it seemed that the momentum Gerulaitis gained there would carry him right into Sunday's finals. In the best-of-five semifinals, he steamrolled over Ashe in the first two sets, 6-1, 6-4, and was serving for the match at 5-4 of the third. Ashe is the best strategist in the game and one of the few players who can effectively alter his style of play to counter his opponent, but his game plan of drop shots and lobs left little margin for error against a speedster like Gerulaitis. Ashe's normally reliable serve was zooming in and out, and to that point in the match he had double-faulted 11 times.

    Gerulaitis went up 15-0 on a service winner, but then, shockingly, Ashe put away an overhead and made two dink passing shots that even Gerulaitis couldn't catch up with, making it 15-40, Ashe. Gerulaitis saved three break points, but on the fourth Ashe delicately feathered a backhand by him at the net. Both players held serve, and in the tiebreaker Ashe overcame yet another double-fault to win, 7-4.

    In the fourth set the momentum had clearly changed. Ashe found the range with his serve, and Gerulaitis began playing tentatively and defensively. Both players held service until the ninth game, when Ashe hit a backhand passing shot down the line that gave him the crucial break. Ashe served out the set, 6-4. In the fifth set, with Ashe serving for the match at 5-4, it appeared things might take a final turn in favor of Gerulaitis. He held four break points. Twice Ashe brought it back to deuce on big serves, and twice Gerulaitis hit passing shots out. On Ashe's first match point, Gerulaitis hit a backhand cross-court return that Ashe never touched, but a moment later Vitas netted a second serve to give Ashe the 3½-hour match and send him to the finals.




    "I thought the gods owed me this one," Ashe said afterward, thinking of the two match points he held against McEnroe two weeks ago before losing.

    The other semifinal match pitted last year's finalists, Connors and Tanner, who both spent much of the match at the baseline. In sharp contrast to Ashe-Gerulaitis, there were no cat-and-mouse tactics here. "There's no one else on the circuit who will stand there and slug it out with you like Jimmy," Tanner said with no small measure of admiration. There is also no one who will beat you more surely at that particular game. Connors returned Tanner's serves with incredible force and regularity in coasting to a 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win, setting up Sunday's finals.

    And there, with more than 15,000 fans in his corner, Ashe looked like something he had not resembled all week—a 35-year-old tennis player. Asked again, yet again, what his reaction was to the stories being written about his returning from the dead, Ashe sat back, smiled and shrugged his shoulders resignedly. "Everyone keeps bringing it up, so I decided this morning I'm just going to go along with it. There's nothing else I can do."

    Welcome back to the living then, Arthur. Do tennis another in a long series of favors and keep your foot out of the grave for a while.

    As for Connors, who so seldom shows insight into another player's talents, he had this to say after Sunday's finals: "I played well today, but I had to, because of what Arthur did yesterday. It's always in the back of your mind that he'll do it again."
     
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  44. KG1965

    KG1965 Hall of Fame

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    #44
  45. KG1965

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    #45
  46. KG1965

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  47. KG1965

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    THE WASHINGTON POST
    Stockton Masters Connors For Title

    By Barry Lorge January 31, 1977
    Dick Stockton sagged several times but refused to buckle today, and in the end produced perhaps the finest two sets of tennis he ever played to dethrone Jimmy Connors in the final of the $200,000 U.S. Pro Indoor championships.

    Stockton's 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 triumph gave the soon-to-be-26-year-old Long Island native, now an adopted Texan, the biggest title of his four year pro career, $40,000 and the satisfaction of his first victory over Connors since 1969.

    The match lasted a little more than three hours and was full of the undulations and subtle shifts in momentum and psychology that make tennis fascinating.

    Stockton, a sturdy 6-foot-3, 180-pounder who is ranked No. 7 in the U.S., six places behind Connors, has a game that is colorless and straightforward but fundamentally sound.

    He is always aggressive on his own serve, and has learned to wait out opportunities to attack his opponent's. Today he merged all the bits and pieces in those magnificient final two sets and ultimately defused the explosive power of Connors' all-court game.

    "I think I hit the ball unbelievably well the whole match, and in the end I just put the shots together - two, three, four a game," said Stockton, who volleyed well throughout and served 11 aces, seven in the last two sets.

    Stockton's style and grim, humorless court demeanor do not warm the heart. He looks like the bearer of bad news, and always seems either hermetically sealed in concentration or irritated during a match.

    He steadfastly refused to join any of the humorous asides and by-play in which Connors engaged the first three sets, but eventually his victory was popular with the record crowd of 14,571 that brought warmth to the Spectrum, where the thermostat was again turned down to conserve fuel.

    Stockton has won four World Championship Tennis (WCT) tournaments since turning pro after winning the NCAA singles title for Trinity (Tex.) University in 1972.

    This was the most important to date financially, artistically, psychologically. The Philadelphia tournament is the heavyweight of the 12 events in the $2.4 million "World Series of tennis" that qualifies the top eight competitors for the prestigious WCT finals in Dallas in May.

    Connors, the defending champion and No. 1 seed, was the final victim in a tournament in which the favorites were marked men. Seven of the top eight seeds were beaten before the quarterfinals, and finally Stockton (seeded No. 12) ousted Connors, who had won 26 straight matches in WCT events.

    Stockton recalled yesterday that he first played Connors in the 1961 Orange Bowl Juniors. "I was 10, he was 9," he said. "I won that one and never lost to him until I was 22 years old."

    As a junior player, Connors was a skinny kid who had not grown, physically, into the aggressive mold he knew was right for him. Stockton, who terrorized the juvenile set the way Connors now does the men's circuit, winning a record 20 national junior titles in eight years, held the uppper hand then, but had last beaten Connors in the semis of the 1969 national juniors. Since then, Connors was 6-0.

    "There's a group of American players about my age who grew up with Jimmy and aren't awed by him," Stockton said today. "We know he's great; he can wipe us off the court some days. But we've beatn him in the past and feel we can do it again.

    "Some foreigners are just awed by him. They go out there thinking they have no chance and lose, 6-2, 6-2. Some of us think he's No. 1 in the world but know that he can be beaten."

    Stockton served well throughout, getting in two-thirds of his first serves (87 of 133). He didn't lose his serve after the fourth game of the third set, when he paid for missing five of six first deliveries.

    Connors didn't jump on the second ball in Stockton's only shaky service game thereafter. It came at 3-1 in the fourth set and turned out to be the crux of the match. Stockton started with a footfault, missed seven of nine first serves but escaped from 0-40 and a total of four break points.

    "I think it was the most important game," Stockton said later. "If he had broken back there (after Stockton had broken for a 2-0 lead), he might have gotten into a groove and run right over me."

    Instead, Stockton pulled himself up by the sneaker straps and broke Connors' serve in the next game - on his fourth break point, after four deuces in a game that was filled with torrid, deep rallies.

    From then on Stockton expanded, winning a total of seven games in a row to 4-0 in the fifth set. In the last five of those, he conceded only five points.

    Flying high on a wellspring of confidence, Stockton got consistent pace and depth on both his first and second serves, and mixed them intelligent.

    Connors' returns, which had been as ferocious for three sets as they were in his earlier matches (he won nine straight sets to get to the final), lost their sting and accuracy under the deluge.

    On Connors' serve, Stockton stayed farther back, especially on the second balls that he had earlier tried to chip and follow to the net.

    Stockton did most of the running in the rallies, as Connors moved him from side to side, but he did not wilt. He kept the ball down the middle, not giving Connors the angles he loves, preventing him blasting outright winners.

    Toward the end of the third set and early in the fourth, Connors began missing on forehand approach shots, hitting either long or into the net. That is usually the first part of his game to go, and later he began making unforced errors off both wings. He was getting beaten from the back-court, and had no chance to charge in for the slashing volleys he was hitting earlier.

    "I watched the news on TV last night, and the sportscaster built up this match by saying I had absolutely no chance," Stockton told the crowd at the presentations, before Bob Hewitt and Frew McMillan came out and won the $14,000 top prize in doubles over Wojtek Fibak and Ton Okker, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3.

    "The anchor man as an old friend of mine from school, Michael Tuck, and he was standing up for me. I think Mike Tuck, my wife, and I were the only people in the world who thought I could win."
     
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  48. KG1965

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    SPRT ILLUSTRATED
    THE BALANCED HAND THAT BEAT 16 ACES

    A stubborn Connors defused Tanner's rockets at the U.S. Indoor tournament

    By Curry Kirkpatrick


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    Feb. 06, 1978


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    Original Layout

    Just when it looked as if the U.S. Pro Indoor would give us another chapter in the adventures of Jimbo and Bjorn, along came Roscoe Tanner to upset the ballcart.

    For a while there in South Philadelphia it seemed as if the only two players in the tournament were Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg, so completely was the rest of the draw ignored. But then Tanner began unloading his big serve and blasting the likes of Zeljko Franulovic, Ilie Nastase and Eddie Dibbs (23 aces), not to mention Borg himself, and suddenly Connors had a new challenger on Sunday.

    Sort of. As quickly as he had reasserted himself as everybody's favorite ace machine, Tanner disappeared in the finals under Connors' relentless pressure and a flurry of merciless ground strokes. At one stretch during their days as juniors, Tanner defeated Connors five straight times, but his only victory of consequence since came on a golden afternoon at Wimbledon in 1976. Last Sunday Tanner blasted 16 aces past Connors, but he was able to break his serve only once. Good hit, no field, take a hike. Connors won, laughing, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3, to collect the $35,000 first prize and to finish the month of January with over $200,000 in earnings.

    Before Tanner started firing his rockets, the first big indoor tournament of the season produced a certain amount of ennui for which Connors and Borg could be held responsible. By being so good and so dominant for the past few years and by co-starring in a two-part television drama earlier in the month—Connors over Borg in the Colgate Grand Prix Masters, Borg over Connors in the Pepsi Grand Slam—the rivals had, depending on your viewpoint, either produced the most chilling, numbing excitement in all of sport or were merely boring thousands into switching channels to Celebrity Cockfights.

    Because Guillermo Vilas is injured and probably will not play many tournaments before summer anyway, tennis finds itself searching for alternate star attractions, who just don't seem to be there. This is not to say the game lacks quality players. What with Tanner, Brian Gottfried, Dick Stockton, Manolo Orantes, Raul Ramirez, Eddie Dibbs, Harold Solomon and Vitas Gerulaitis making the semifinals fairly regularly, and with Adriano Panatta and Wojtek Fibak contributing upsets now and again, the top 20 look stronger than ever. The problem is, nobody seems to care.

    The players' postmatch encounters with the media in Philadelphia reinforced this observation. When Dibbs arrived at the press room fresh from his—what, 497th?—stimulating victory over his bagel twin, Solomon, at least a few reporters interrupted their dinner to talk to him. Earlier in the tournament, while Gottfried was calmly reviewing one of his winning matches—and explaining why none of the spectators seemed interested—a majority of the press continued gobbling sandwiches and tomato pickles at the rear of the room.

    Perhaps the unkindest cut of all greeted Dick Stockton on the opening day of the tournament. Last year Stockton collected $311,856 while winning several tournaments and making the world's top 10 for the first time. Significantly, he defeated Connors twice in three meetings. More significantly, he was the defending champ in Philadelphia, having beaten Connors the year before in five sets. So defending champion Stockton was rewarded by tournament chairpersons Ed and Marilyn Fernberger with a 2 p.m. first-day, first-round match, guaranteeing him an audience consisting just about wholly of Stockton's wife Sue, the third-grade class of Our Lady of Perpetual Humility grade school and a few local drunks who must have wandered into the Spectrum to escape the snow.

    Stockton responded by losing to Tim Gullikson 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. "It looks like they're trying to get me out of here in a hurry," Stockton said. "Jimmy would never play during the day if he was defending champion. The big guys get all the attention."

    "What's Stockton complaining about playing at two o'clock for?" said Ramirez. "He doesn't draw anyway."

    So now even the other players sounded uninterested in the plight of the other players. "Connors and Borg playing each other every week in the finals is getting sort of sickening," said Dibbs.

    Dibbs is always good for one or two spice-up-the-tournament matches, and so, when his quarterfinal engagement with Sandy Mayer, an outspoken advocate of Christian renewal, disintegrated from a 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 victory into threats, name-calling and charges of quick-serving, hardly anybody was surprised.

    "Dibbs used to want to punch me out," Mayer said. "He steps into the twilight zone. He irritates and intimidates with his Dibbserisms. Dibbs infringes on my rights in the locker room."

    "Mayer is a —— in the locker room," said Dibbs. "He's full of garbage. He's the biggest crybaby on the tour."
     
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  49. KG1965

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    While the tournament was busy sinking its teeth into this debate, Borg was in the process of reverting to his personal form sheet, on which it must be written somewhere: "Philadelphia—when in doubt, quit."

    Three times—including last year—Borg had been defeated in the early rounds at Philly; two years ago in the finals against Connors he shamelessly threw the last set en route to a 7-6, 6-4, 6-0 loss. As his girl friend, Mariana Simionescu, said last week, "Bjorn doesn't like this place. He cannot concentrate. He wants to get out of here."

    ...Philadelphia uses two courts simultaneously up to the semifinals, but the problems caused by noise, confusion, crowd movement, double microphones and balls rolling onto the wrong courts are the same for every player. Bjorn Borg can concentrate on a Concorde airplane runway if he wants to.

    Against the sky-hook serves of 6'5" Peter Fleming in the third round, Borg appeared to want to, rallying from a set behind and two points away from a straight-set defeat to brush off the UCLA dropout by 3-6, 7-6 (8-6 in the thriller tie break), 6-3. But against Tanner in the next round the former teen angel looked like a man dancing on the wrong end of a tango line.

    While Tanner used his patented boomers along with newfound discipline and confidence instilled by his coach, Dennis Ralston, to play "my best total match ever," Borg sulked, pouted, twirled his racket in the air and looked generally as if he couldn't wait to go cuddle up with Mariana beside the nearest fireplace.

    After Borg lost 6-4, 7-6, he said, "I hit too many short ones. I don't want to say anything against the tournament, but too much noise, too much talking, too much moving. My mind, it is not O.K."

    Meanwhile, Connors was totally O.K., except for a lower back strain suffered in the first set of his 6-7, 6-2, 6-1 quarterfinal victory over Ramirez. Jimbo had run through Cliff Drysdale, Panatta and Buster Mottram and was to stage a marvelous comeback in whipping Gottfried in a 3½-hour semifinal match 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0. Connors was surprised when he was asked how he could keep going against Ramirez while in such pain.

    "Everybody's gunning for me," Jimbo said. "What do you want me to do, retire?"

    Please, no, Jimbo. Just teach Bjorn not to retire every Philadelphia. And—oh yes—both of you, please learn some Dibbserisms.
     
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  50. KG1965

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    DESERT SUN
    2 February 1976

    Connors Tames Borg In Pro Indoor Finals

    PHILADELPHIA (UP!) - .Jimmy Connors “I'm not a loner anymore” stressed his new image and firmly set out to regain recognition as the No. 1 world’s tennis player by routing Bjorn Borg Sunday in the U.S. Pro Indoor championships. And his victory, coupled with other events in the $115,000 tournament, gave sharp indication that the young turks may well take over the game this year. The tournament was the first truly international event of 1976, drawing 54 of the world's best. And the under-25 set took command by the quarterfinal round. Only four of the final eight were over 25 and in the semis, Tom Okker was the old man at age 31 But among the young turks, Connors at 23 is the man. He showed it by whipping Borg for the fourth time in their five meetings. A very close line call that went against Borg on the first point of the tie-break seemed to shake the 19-year-old Swede badly and from that point he never again achieved control of the one hour and 59 minute match.
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