Thank GOD for Tennis: Goolagong-Cawley, Evert, Borg, and McEnroe, Too

Donald MarhefkaCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2009

LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN - 1980:  Evonne Cawley of Australia plays a shot at Wimbledm Championship 1980 in London, Great Britain. (photo by Getty Images)


I got my inspiration for this article from Robert Orzechowski, who is a writer here on Bleacher Report. His article, “My Memories of US Open 2009” was very funny. 

He told about his frustration of trying to watch the US Open final while CBS switched to “Access Hollywood,” a gossip show. Being a staunch Federer fan didn’t help.

Equally as funny was the comment by Clarabella Bevis. She talked about watching the 2009 Australian Open and watching Federer lose that one. Her friends made comments like, “Oh, so you like tennis?”  This was while she was dying because Federer was losing.

To read Robert's article, please click on this link.

Reading this, I was reminded of my own situation, which occurred on July 4th, 1980. 

The Cincinnati Primitive Church

My wife was a member of the Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church and they were having a picnic at Elder Lasserre Bradley’s house. I attended church at times, but not as frequently nor as fervently as my wife. 

It seems that practically everyone at the picnic were hard-right winger Baptists. I’m a conservative politically, but not out on the far right. I could never understand how the right-most conservative believers state that secondhand smoke has never been proven to be a problem. Are they saying that all of the scientists that say so are “liberals?” 

Sorry for the digression. It’s a bad habit of mine. Let me return to the story. 


That day, the church members were all talking about their favorite subject: THE LORD. It was THE LORD said this, and THE LORD said that. I was definitely not as fervent a Primitive Baptist believer as the other people at the picnic.

After a while, I went into the house, by myself, to use the bathroom. It was the hottest day of the year and the sun was out in full force that day. The downstairs family room was very cool and felt so good. 

I noticed a TV set which was not turned on. I thought I would rest for a few minutes and turned on the TV. There was a tennis match going on. Evonne Goolagong-Cawley was playing Chris Evert in the finals at Wimbledon. 

Now, at that time, I had absolutely no interest in tennis. But, this seemed interesting; in fact, much more interesting than the conversations outside. Goolagong, who was a mother, won that match. It was not until Kim Clijsters in the 2009 U.S. Open that another mother won a grand slam title. 

I watched the conclusion of the match and kept watching the tube until my wife came in and told me it was time to go. 

A New Tennis Fan

The next day, I watched Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe and I was hooked. I became a tennis fanatic.  The match of Borg vs. McEnroe has been called the most exciting of all time. My personal favorites are: 

  1. 1984 French Open, Ivan Lendl over McEnroe
  2. 1989 French Open, Steffi Graf over Martina Hingis
  3. 2008 Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal over Roger Federer
  4. 1980 Wimbledon, Borg over McEnroe

Also, I liked the 2009 French Open Men’s Final a lot because of its significance. It was exciting in its own way.

Once a Pirate (Buccaneer)

While growing up, I was a baseball nut. At the age of six, I would walk down the steps from Tacoma School in Port Vue, PA to my house on Romine Avenue. Can I call it a house?  It had a kitchen and a bedroom. To get to the bedroom, one had to walk up a shared hallway.

Anyway, my dad, who listened to Rosie Rosewell on the radio, would have the Pirates game to that point written out in long hand for me to read and catch up with the action.

In 1960, I actually attended the most exciting baseball game every played. It was on Oct. 13th at Forbes Field. The Pirates and Yankees were tied at 3-3 in the World Series.  The Pirates won that game 10-9, climaxed by Bill Mazeroski’s home run in the bottom of the ninth. 

Oh, I’m digressing again but I wanted to make a point. I now am a tennis nut to the point of moving the Pirates game down to No. 5 on my list. Maybe it’s a natural occurrence of the passage of time. 

Still Another Digression

Baseball today is more popular than ever. But, I have become less and less interested.  When I was ten years old, I could easily name all 200 players on the eight teams in the National League. Today, I can’t name the World Series winner from two years ago. 

Part of the reason is unions. My meaning is that players sign individual contracts with their teams, usually for amounts in the millions.

Why in the world should they also have the protection of a union?

Sorry, I digressed again.

Loved Lendl

Being a Fanatical Federer fan is a lot easier than being a Loony Lendl fan. 

I remember reading, circa 1982 or so, that Lendl was great but could never win a grand slam against an aggressive American left-hander. Of course, the hidden message was that he could never beat Jimmy Connors or McEnroe in a grand slam. 

After losing to Connors in both the 1982 and 1983 U.S. Opens, it looked like maybe they were right. He had also lost to Borg in 1981 in Paris, although he took him to five sets. 

But, Lendl won the 1984 French Open over McEnroe in a very thrilling five-setter.  McEnroe was at the height of his powers that year and he had some revenge in besting Lendl in the finals of the U.S. Open that year. But Lendl proved to be the nemesis of McEnroe.

Lendl beat him at the 1985 U.S. Open final and hastened McEnroe’s decline from tennis.

But Lendl lost some heartbreakers, many of them to Boris Becker. The 1991

Australian Open final was typical.

Lendl easily won the first set. Then, Becker won the next three, all by the score of 6-4. Becker was able to do this by playing back until the score was tied at 4-4. Then he would charge the net on almost every point.

Normally, Ivan would pass him but Becker did not charge until it was gut time. His strategy worked to perfection. It is to his credit that he was able to stay back and play Lendl on even terms for such a long period of time.

That match is why I can relate to Clarabelle Bevis’ comments regarding the 2009 Australian Open.

Fanatical Federer Fan

Today, I’m a big fan of Federer. He has lost some big matches but it’d be difficult to be too upset in light of 15 grand slam victories as well as a career grand slam. 

Nadal is the "King of Clay," and Federer is the “King of Grass” (although Rafa has also fared very well on grass). But, I can’t help but wonder why there aren’t some 1000 Masters Series tournaments on grass. Isn’t this a big advantage for Nadal?

Oops, I'm digressing again!.


Please cut me a little slack in my constant meandering. I never studied Journalism in College and I’m only an amateur writer. So, my articles are not very Xeno-esque. But, I must say that many of the Bleacher Report’s writers are as good as, if not better than, many professionals. I would appreciate your comments on anything. A critical comment is much better than no comment at all. 

So, as stated in my title, it is thanks to GOD that I became a tennis fan. Ok, Goolagong-Cawley, Evert, Borg, and McEnroe hard a part in it, too.


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