Congratulations to Curry Kirkpatrick on an exceptionally objective article on new Wimbledon king John McEnroe and the 1981 tournament (His Earth, His Realm, His England, July 13). The public should be made aware not only of McEnroe's behavior, which has received enough press, but also of the other side of the picture, the often strict, sometimes unnecessary and overbearing rules and regulations imposed on the competitors by the All England Club. This code of conduct is the reason why some people regard Wimbledon as a long-faced institution composed of officials more involved in tradition than in the enjoyment of the sport itself.
Of course, McEnroe's actions were clearly out of place, but for all his name-calling and tantrums, no one will quickly forget the pressure, insults and anguish lie endured to play an impeccable final match and win the Wimbledon title and the admiration of the world.
CHRISTOPHER R. FRANK
Mont Vernon, N.H.
Being a college tennis player, I know how one bad call can turn a match around. John McEnroe competes against the best players in the world, and many times one point can be the difference between winning and losing. It's a wonder he was even able to play in England with all the pressure put on him by the British press and people. They think he's nasty; they think he's a brat. I think he's the best tennis player in the world.
MICHAEL J. GONSALVES
McEnroe's manners may not be perfect, but his game is. And that's all that counts.
July 26, 1981
I watched a good bit of Wimbledon tennis on television and enjoyed the high level of play very much. However, I was sorry to see the way John McEnroe handled himself at times, especially during the postmatch interview. He said, in so many words, "The bottom line is I won the tournament."
Maybe my negative reaction to that sort of thinking is out of tune, what with the tremendous amount of exposure and money involved in sports at the professional level. We all give lip service to sportsmanship, but more and more the bottom line seems to be "I won!" It's disturbing to see this philosophy become so much a part of athletics, even in high school and in youth leagues. Is McEnroe merely expressing the pervading outlook on sport?
I don't mean to sit in judgment of McEnroe, having never been under the kind of pressure he was subjected to by fans, press, opponents and prize money. I only hope that my sons will not emulate his reaction to pressure, no matter what the magnitude.
JOHN A. BARR
So John McEnroe is the 1981 Wimbledon men's singles champion. Unfortunately, until and unless he can learn to clean up his act and grow up, he will remain what he is: a very good tennis player who takes away more from the game with his boorish behavior than he gives to it with his great play. Right now McEnroe is the ultimate Ugly American.
After reading your July 6 SCORECARD item on tennis misbehavior, it occurs to me that Wimbledon is the one tournament with the horsepower to take on the prima donnas. It has survived the exodus of professionals in the 1950s; it has endured most of the rigors of open tennis (so far); it was able to carry on through the men's boycott in 1973; it outlasted Ilie Nastase; and it will surely still be a respected and cherished institution long after John McEnroe is gone.
It's clear to me that Wimbledon can and must assert itself even more forcefully in dealing with competitors who won't play by the rules. And so should SI do its part—in even stronger terms!
ROBERT E. TURRENTINE
A great deal was written by the press about the 1981 Wimbledon tournament, and most of it was not about tennis, mainly because the most newsworthy part of the scene was the disgraceful behavior of John McEnroe. And what little was written about the tennis, I thought, missed the point. Naturally, if the press is able to get McEnroe to change his ways, it would be of great benefit to tennis, at least in the U.S. However, it is equally important for the media to explain why McEnroe beat Bjorn Borg, why Jimmy Connors won the first two sets against Borg and then lost the last three and why McEnroe is more successful against Borg than other players are. No one, including print reporters and commentators on television, answered these questions. Let me try.
Borg has two weaknesses—one glaring—and McEnroe's game tends to take advantage of both of them. The glaring weakness is that he stands eight to 12 feet behind the baseline to receive service. This allows an opponent to serve wide to Borg's forehand in the right court and wide to his backhand in the left court, creating an expanse of open court on the side opposite the one to which the opponent has served. McEnroe serves well to these points and moves smoothly to the net. He volleys the return to the open side and Borg, even with his great speed, can rarely reach this placement. McEnroe used this ploy to extricate himself from several games in which he was behind 15-40 on his serve. Connors, I would think, could do the same thing, but he never seems to try it.
Second, Borg has the weakness of all players with topspin drives. The lower the ball, the harder it is for him to hit, basically because when one uses topspin, the head of one's racket must be below the ball before the hit. If the ball is a foot above the ground, it is next to impossible for a topspin player to return; if it is two feet above the ground, it is still not easy to make anything but a defensive shot. McEnroe has an undercut backhand which, when it lands, skids and stays low. In his match with Borg, he moved in on Borg's second service and undercut it, which many people call a chip shot. By the time Borg dug these returns out of the ground, McEnroe was on top of the net ready for the kill.
In respect to the Connors-Borg match, Connors played truly superior tennis for two sets, and he concentrated on hitting as many shots as possible low to Borg's backhand. Starting with the third set, he let up on Borg's backhand and began playing more shots to Borg's forehand, which allowed Borg to come to the net more—Borg's plan, I'm sure—and certainly reduced his backhand errors.
WILLIAM T. TILDEN 3RD
•Reader Tilden, a nephew and namesake of three-time (1920, 1921, 1930) Wimbledon champion Bill Tilden, was the co-captain of the 1936 Princeton tennis team and in 1938 himself competed at Wimbledon, losing in the final qualifying round.—ED.
As if major league baseball didn't have a big enough black eye from the strike, it now has another one, thanks to Bill Brubaker's article Hey, Kid, Wanna Be a Star? (July 13).
How would Yankee Scout Fred Ferreira, Oriole General Manager Hank Peters, Commissioner's Office Administrator Bill Murray et al. feel if their teen-age sons had been exposed to exploitation by and misleading promises from a business that offered a 90% failure rate and ignored the boys' need to get a high school education?
Such arrogance ("The poorest countries are the easiest to negotiate in because the kids there are the hungriest"—Ferreira) is bound to produce a Marvin Miller of the Caribbean. Speed the day!
RICHARD A. GRIMLEY
The standard line of the big league scouts appears to be "I'm giving this kid a better chance than he would have at home." With many of these unsuspecting youngsters having less than a high school education—not to mention an inability to speak English on a conversational level—they don't seem to me to be getting much of a chance. We tell our young athletes to get a good education, and then we turn right around and take Latin youngsters out of school, haul them to a strange place and expect them to perform.
Strict restrictions, similar to those enacted regarding young Puerto Rican players, should be placed on the recruitment of young men from all over Latin America, with severe penalties for violators. But above all, managers, coaches, players, parents and the media should begin to tell the youth of Latin America, as well as those of our country, that the dream of pro sports often ends up as a tragic nightmare—and that a good education, while not a sure ticket to success, is still the best route out of poverty.
ERIC R. FLEMING
In his article The Perfect Garden (July 6) Tommy Neil Tucker makes one big mistake. In describing Cary's excellent memory, he refers to "batting averages, innings pitched, scores, uniform numbers, remembered in a strange singsong voice." Uniform numbers were not, as I recall, around in 1922.
•While it's true that uniform numbers were not used, shall we say, uniformly until 1929, when the Yankees adopted them—with most of the American League following suit the next year—in 1916 the White Sox and Indians experimented with numbers on their uniform sleeves. The fictional character Cary traveled the Midwest, so it seems reasonable to assume that he was aware of those teams and their numbers. Another team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, reportedly wore numbers as early as 1883.—ED.
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