from Tennis (issue of February 1986)
by John Tullius
Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander just after the match point at the 1985 Australian Open final
MELBOURNE. The Australian Open lived up to its reputation for unpredictability in 1985, at least on the men's side. It produced a surprise winner, 19-year-old Stefan Edberg, who completely throttled two-time defending champion Mats Wilander in the final 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to capture his first Grand Slam trophy. On the women's side, where the No. 1 of world ranking was on the line, Martina Navratilova won convincingly over Chris Evert Lloyd in the final, played in early December.
This year's event attracted the finest field in the tournament's history, with the top three men and women in the world all making the long trip Down Under. The top drawing card in this stacked deck, though, was world No. 5 Boris Becker. The tournament organizers were given an awful fright when the Wimbledon champion was bundled out in the opening round by Michiel Schapers, an unknown Dutchman who stands 6 feet 7 inches tall.
But despite Becker's untimely demise, record crowds continued to overflow the antiquated facilities at Kooyong Stadium every day. It was a fitting reward for the Aussie tournament directors, who have fought to bring their Open up to the standards of the other Grand Slam events.
The next Australian Open will be played in January 1987. But the new stadium - to be built in downtown Melbourne and originally scheduled to be ready for that 1987 event - has been delayed another year. With the Aussie attitude of "Always another day, mate," and the labor strikes that often cripple this country, some experts down here think it could be 1989 or even 1990 before we see the tournament played there.
The Australian Open has often been the stage for great upsets. Last year, Helena Sukova stopped Navratilova's 74-match winning streak in the women's semifinals. This year, there was a whole slew of big surprises, headed by Slobodan (Bobo) Zivojinovic's win over John McEnroe. The burly Yugolsav played the best tennis of his life to defeat the New Yorker 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-0.
But as is usually the case in upsets of this magnitude, the favorite was ripe for the plucking. McEnroe had flirted with disaster throughout the tournament. He was a long way from home, disgusted by the playing conditions, hassled by photographers and heckled by the crowd. In everyone of his matches, he went through patches where he obviously wanted to be far, far away.
He barely escaped hot-shooting Henri Leconte in the round of 16. McEnroe went up and down, while Leconte blew hot and cold in an electrifying, roller-coaster match. When Leconte, up two sets to one, went ahead 5-1 in the fourth-set tiebreaker, McEnroe let out a huge, agonized cry in resignation of his imminent defeat. But it never came.
McEnroe bounced back and finished off the Frenchman 6-1 in the fifth. Mac finally threw in the towel in the fifth set of the Zivojinovic match. Down 0-4, he gave the next game away-pooping his first serve over and staying back. On match point in the final game, he angrily smacked Bobo's serve wildly out of the court, packed up his bags and stalked out to a chorus of loud boos from the Aussie crowd. It was a sad and puzzling moment. McEnroe had shown all the unmistakable signs of tennis burnout, the plague of this grab-the-bucks era of the game.
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