Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Wimbledon match I enjoyed a lot today

This afternoon, I watched the BBC broadcast of the 1972 Wimbledon semifinal between Chris Evert and defending champion Evonne Goolagong, two of my all-time favorite players. It was shocking to recall how different everything was: There were wooden racquets, of course (oh, for those days...), the players took their breaks standing up with a towel and a paper cup they had to fill with water, and there was no need for a trainer to come out. The commentator repeatedly referred to Evert as "the little girl," proving that--though we haven't really come that far--at least today's commentators are not quite that sexist.

The tennis dresses were wonderful, and Goolagong's was part of an entire ensemble that included a very smart jacket. I'm sure there are people today who would laugh at the players' outfits, but I thought they were both quite attractive. In fact, it would be nice if they were replicated for a couple of contemporary players to wear.

17-year-old Chris Evert already had an expressionless face, regardless of how things went, though she did become a bit tense when her 6-4, 3-0 lead disappeared. And Goolagong was her mellow, good-humored self, regardless of how things went. The first set was bad for the Australian, who made a number of errors and tended to let Evert control from the baseline. But after she got herself and her serve-and-volley game together, she began to glide around the court in that special way she had, hitting those fabulous volleys with ease. I think of her sometimes when I see Amelie Mauresmo gliding from side to side and gracefully finishing points at the net.

Goolagong won the match, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, though she would go on to lose in the final to Billie Jean King. In fact, Goolagong would not win Wimbledon again until 1980, and her opponent in that final would be Chris Evert.

After watching today's power players whack very fast balls, take numerous injury time-outs and scream loudly with every point, it was a real treat to watch Evert and Goolagong play this exciting match on grass, with all the drama but none of the trauma.

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