Jimmy Connors slinged a barrage of one liners, two-fisted backhands and winning volleys before Utah tennis patrons Friday. The only one that wasn't enjoying the on-court show was Bjorn Borg.
The sober Swede fell to the colorful Connors in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, in what was the first of a 13-city tour being dubbed "The Battle Continues . . ."It was hard to measure the sentiments of the Utah crowds. There were as many "Borgs" shouted between points as there were "Connors." Neither player drew noticeably more applause.
The court, however, belonged entirely to Connors. He was light-hearted, entertaining and consistent. Borg, on the other hand, didn't say a word and was stone-faced from first service to last point. Worse, he was inconsistent.
There were times, in fact, when Borg seemed annoyed by Connors clowning. While the ageless Connors joked with patrons about his age, his winners, his misses, and anything else that was yelled his way from the audience, Borg stood quietly around the baseline, never once responding to the crowd or Connors.
There were times when Borg's game showed signs of his pre-retirement play. Unfortunately there were other times when it didn't.
Most notable were his double faults. He had seven during the match - two of them came on game point and the third on match point.
After the match Connors said he was excited about the tour and enjoyed these "light-hearted exchanges with the fans."
Borg said his game was off a little, "but Ihad fun."
Connors broke for the first time in the 4th game of the first set to go up 3-1. Borg broke back in the 7th game with a blazing passing shot down the line, but double faulted the 8th game away, leaving Connors to serve for the set.
The second set started with Borg double faulting, then falling behind love-40. He pulled even at deuce on two unforced errors by Connors and an outright winner that he hit. Advantage then bounced back and forth like the tennis ball. The game lasted for 17 points with Connors finally winning it on a shot that hit the tape and then dropped into Borg's court.
Following that game Connors went up 4-0 before Borg was able to hold service.
Borg's best game of the match came in the 8th in the second set. The Swede broke from his patient backcourt play and attacked the net. He volleyed three winners to go up, but then stayed back and let Connors catch up. He regained the advantage, charged again and volleyed another winner to break for the first time in the set to trail 5-3.
It was Borg's service the ended his comeback. With Connors holding advantage and match point, he double faulted for the seventh time.
Connors said he plans to continue his play on the major circuit this summer. Borg said he's working on his game and is looking for a comeback in about six months . . . no doubt using this tour as a tune-up and a test.