Soap Update. In last week's episode of Estranged Couples As The Search Turns, Chris told John she wanted to play with Jimmy, so Patti took Brett and they all went to see Bjorn hit himself in the face. Bettina, who recently recovered from losing half her hearing, joined Bjorn, and Butch, who recently recovered from testicular cancer, joined Betsy, who has a clothing line in Japan, from where Jimmy just returned. Meanwhile, John returned to his other partner, Wendy, and Andrea put down her Walkman long enough to join Roscoe, who played too rough for Wendy. Then Ilie hit Andrea, Roscoe got mad at Ilie and tried to hit him, Roscoe hit Hana, Andrea hit Ilie, and Ilie gave everyone the finger. So the questions remain: Will success spoil Aaron and Lisa? Can Adriano find a diet doc before it's too late? Is it over already between Sherwood and JoAnne? Do Vinnie and Carling do it—color their hair—or don't they? Who's Hu? What? And if Chris and John and Jimmy and Patti and all the rest keep playing around like this, how will Brett get enough chicken McNuggets?
So it was that the game of tennis merged with the battle of the sexes once again to produce the fascinating sport of mixed doubles, right there in Houston's Astroarena. You remember the Astroarena. Originally constructed to house the annual horse show. Now a boxing palace. Son of Astrodome, next door, where 10 years ago Riggs-King introduced modern-day show biz to tennis. Well, the second annual World Mixed Doubles championship was flavored with all these elements, not to mention a whole lot of money—100 grand to the winning team. 15 just for showing up, 400,000 smackers total purse.
Of course, moola had nothing to do with this year's star-spangled field. Oh no. You think Bjorn Borg, the famous television announcer, would leave his elocution lessons in the golden hills of Monte Carlo to come to the Astroarena, get aced by a girl and split open his forehead with his own forehand just for the big bucks? You think Jimmy Connors would skip a tournament in Stockholm, risking a $10,000 fine, or that Chris Evert Lloyd would hazard wedded bliss to team with her former...what—beau, fiancé, paramour?—simply for the cold cash? Guarantees? Come on. We're talking dedication here, gang, love of the game.
Sherwood Stewart to Roscoe Tanner: "What are you doing winning that match? Now we'll miss our tee time tomorrow."
November 14, 1983
Chris to Jimbo: "How about practice at two?"
Jimbo: "Naw, I got to go shopping."
Actually, by the time the glamour-puss pairing of Connors-Evert Lloyd had whipped Tanner and Andrea Jaeger 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in the finals on Sunday night, some serious tennis had been played, a tribute to several of the tour's best and brightest, who had dared to get into a situation that most couples of reasonable sanity have always attempted to avoid. The final confrontation, matching two, shall we say, pickup teams would tend to put to rest the canard that doubles is a maze of intrigue demanding long hours of working together, intimate knowledge of each other's capabilities, an overwhelming sense of team. Over the long haul, maybe. But for a one-shot tournament—nope.
With the defending champions, Peter McNamara and Martina Navratilova, retired—McNamara from the game, Navratilova, as many have observed, from serious competition—the only established teams in the draw were the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, John Lloyd and Wendy Turnbull and Stewart and JoAnne Russell. Lloyd-Turnbull won Wimbledon this year, and Stewart-Russell were runners-up at the World Mixed in 1982. Both teams exited whimpering in last week's quarterfinals, Turnbull wanting to depart after seeing perhaps three Tanner service missiles.
These upsets were hardly noticed because the allure of this event is the gimmicky pairings the player agents contrive: teen-scream, groupie-dream combos like Vince Van Patten-Carling Bassett, or the Motown tots, Aaron Krickstein-Lisa Bonder, or the Northwestern-Far Eastern connection, Marty Riessen-Hu Na, or Power 'n' Puff, Tanner-Jaeger. Also on hand were Fish 'n' Chip, Chip Hooper and Kathy Horvath, who's still trolling for the secret that enabled her to beat Navratilova in Paris, and Sweet 'n' Low, Beth Herr and Eliot Teltscher. ET's last venture in mixed ended with his barrage of vulgar and sexist insults aimed at Leslie Allen a beaten opponent in the French Open finals Finally there was the ever-marvelous combination of Bonnie Gadusek and Adriano Panatta Though cute and athletic Gadusek has the air of a gun moll, and Panatta has obviously been hitting the fettuccine at full throttle. Call this team Bonnie and Wide.
Call Connors-Evert Lloyd sexual electricity. Even against such a strong repertory cast, and with Borg co-starring in approximately his 13th return from exile, Connors-Evert Lloyd was top bill. When both their marriages were floundering last year, tour rumors flew hot and heavy: Jimmy and Chris were sending notes to each other in sneaker boxes. Chris and Jimmy were phoning up. J and C were back. Whenever they appeared together in Houston it was as if Liz and Dick had suddenly arrived at the estate in The Big Chill to the accompaniment of that movie's '60s soundtrack.
Chris at joint press conference: "It can be very difficult to play doubles with your spouse. Emotional. Since there are no feelings, emotions, between Jimmy and I..."—smirk, glance at Connors—"...I'm sure we'll make a great team." I heard it through the grapevine.
Chris at cocktail party: "I know I gave you the room key, John. Either you..."—smirk, laugh—"...or I gave it to Jimmy." Wouldn't it be nice if we could....
Jimmy at team practice, laughing, joking, playing righthanded, shooting a few quick moons. To Chris: "You know, I'd pay you to practice with me every day." You can't always get what you want.
The Lloyds and Connorses both stayed in suites at the Inn on the Park. The first afternoon the couples visited in the Connorses' suite for a couple of hours. They mixed at a party at Sonny Bono's restaurant. Jimmy and Chris practiced every day, sometimes with John. Patti invited Chris up to have her nails done by a manicurist. Chris couldn't make it. Jimbo took 4-year-old Brett to the amusement park and the Putt-Putt "We asked Jimmy and Patti to come to dinner one night," said Chris, "but Brett's favorite is chicken McNuggets, and we couldn't handle that He loves that kid." Joy to the world...All the boys and girls.
Jimbo used the tournament to unveil a midsize prototype racket made by Wilson, and Chris was breaking in her new Stevie Nicks-model frizzy shag cut. Nevertheless, they both performed as if nothing had changed in the nine years since they won the singles and played mixed doubles at Wimbledon and, oh yes, broke their engagement as well. Last week Connors was brash, crude, tough; Evert Lloyd was consistent, elegant, tough.
Good-humored fun infiltrated their matches up to the finals, straight-set jobs over Jimmy Brown-Zina Garrison, Van Patten-Bassett and Butch Walts-Betsy Nagelsen, at once the spunkiest and most obscure of all the duos, Walts having licked cancer, Nagelsen a household word only if your house is in Tokyo. C would put away a crisp volley, and J would stride off as if to say "excuuuuse me." The two would get crossed up, leaving the court open, whereupon J would point a finger at C, crying "your fault." J did much strutting, C much giggling. Both said it was "easy," that it wasn't as if they were "strangers."
"You had a great feel for the angles," John Lloyd said to Connors after one match. A few minutes later Chris told the press she would not like to meet her husband in the finals. "I would." Connors roared, pounding the table.
While the Lloyds and Connorses appeared ecstatic about being together in Houston. Borg was lucky to get out of the city alive. Paired with Bettina Bunge, who has been off the circuit since undergoing an ear operation in August, Borg looked fit, happy, content—and about Top 30 caliber. "He's not coming back," Riessen said firmly after his partner, Hu Na (no relation to Sha Na), fooled Borg a couple of times and Riessen-Na lost a third-set tiebreaker. Later, against Enigma, Inc., the team of Ilie Nastase and Hana Mandlikova, Bunge played as if it were her eyes that had been impaired. Then Borg was rudely aced by Mandlikova. "That's not the first time," Borg said. Sure, Bjorn. "No, I don't remember who the other woman was."
Early in the second set a Nastase serve took a bad bounce and Borg unloaded one of his roundhouse low-to-high discus-thrower swipes, slashing the ball off the wood high into the rafters. While everybody watched the ball's flight, murmuring "same old Bjorny, he can miss 'em just like me," Borg strolled off the court, blood streaming from above his left eye. "I have been hitting myself quite a few times." he said later. "I am not really suprised." After Borg had been patched up, the team of Hana K (for killer) and Nastase put BB-BB out of their misery 6-3, 6-2. "I have missed the fans and the atmosphere," Borg said, "but I think I will survive" Nobody asked if he meant the cut or the retirement, but on his is next comeback Borg had best bring along Dr. Ferdie Pacheco.
It wasn't only Swedish blood that was spilled in Houston, either. The semifinal pitting Tanner-Jaeger against Nastase-Mandlikova took on the charm of a tag-team wrestling bout after Nastase slugged two overheads in the general direction of Jaeger's tender gams. The second one connected—hard. At the time, Nasty-Mandy were ahead 6-2, 3-3. When Tanner figured out that Nastase was trying to add injury to insult, he quickly retaliated with one of his laser deliveries, which nearly parted Nastase's sneer on the fly. "Was I trying to hit Ilie?" said Tanner. "Aww, that was just my long, flat one. If I can nail him from 80 feet, he's not as quick as he used to be."
Target practice continued with Tanner drilling Mandlikova—accidentally, of course. Eventually, Jaeger, daughter of a former boxer, remember, took aim and sledgehammered an overhead of her own, obviously intended to render Nastase a cripple for life. The ball crashed into the tape. Nastase turned and pointed out his rear end to Jaeger. This time Andrea grabbed another ball and threw it at her tormentor. Bull's-eye: "Nasty's good for the game and bad," Jaeger said after she and Tanner rallied to win 2-6, 7-5, 7-5. "But if he had hit me in the face I would have been really mad." Not to mention, in surgery.
Ah well. All's fair in love and mixed. While Borg will remember his self-mutilation and the women players may recall Tanner's terrifying service with night-screaming, it's the sparks from Connors-Evert Lloyd that will endure from this tournament. "It was weird," said Jaeger, 18. "I mean I watched that press conference on TV, and the camera kept shooting back and forth between John and Jimmy, John Jimmy, and all you heard was Chris's voice making cracks. Wow weird I don't know what the public thinks." My girl, talkin' 'bout my girl.
When she grows up, Andrea will find out.