They Pay Taxes So They Are Local Players

All this fretting that U.S. tennis players aren’t winning the U.S. Open anymore, and yet “the champions of the past decade were all locals.”

So writes Newsday’s John Jeansonne, who points out that Ivan Lendl, a Czech, lives in Greenwich, Conn.; and that Mats Wilander, a Swede, is Lendl’s neighbor. That Steffi Graf, of Germany, has a home in Boca Raton, Fla., and Gabriela Sabatini, of Argentina, one in Key Biscayne, Fla.

There’s Boris Becker, who even before he was given a million-dollar condominium in Indian Wells, Calif., in exchange for a couple of exhibition matches there, was embraced by U.S. tennis fans as one of them.

“That’s true,” Becker said. “I would describe myself not as a typical German. That’s why people in America come out to watch me play and cheer for me. The last two, three years, it feels like playing at home to be in America.”


Pancho, Pancho and Lloyd: Jimmy Connors, who turns 39 today, lists three whose influence helped propel him into a professional tennis career: former pros Pancho Segura and Pancho Gonzalez and actor Lloyd Bridges.

“He helped me make the biggest decision of my tennis life,” Connors said of Bridges. “It was when I was trying to make up my mind whether or not to turn pro.”

Connors went from high school to UCLA, where he won the NCAA title as a freshman. But as a sophomore, he pondered his academic future.

“I had a decision to make,” he said. “The money was tempting. I discovered I could play with the pros. But I was still in college.


“That’s when Lloyd Bridges, still a friend today, influenced my decision. He said, ‘Strike while the iron is hot. If you can compete, do it. You can always go back to college. But if it doesn’t work, you have to be man enough to quit and return to school.’

“Fortunately,” Connors said, “it worked.”

Add Connors: Connors has won 109 tournament titles, including five U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons and one Australian crown.

He held the No. 1 ranking on the Assn. of Tennis Professionals computer several times, including one stretch of 159 consecutive weeks, from July 29, 1974 to Aug. 16, 1977--longer than any other man. Connors has accumulated $9 million in prize money.


Trivia Time: What major league pitcher holds the record for consecutive victories?

On this date: On Sept. 2, 1977, Edwin Moses won the 400-meter hurdles at a meet in Dusseldorf, Germany. He didn’t lose again for 10 years.

Trivia answer: Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants. Hubbell won 24 games in a row, 16 in 1936 and eight in 1937.

Quotebook: Lee Trevino, after missing a three-foot putt for birdie when a barking dog broke his concentration at last week’s seniors tournament at Albuquerque, N.M.: “I was trying to pull it back between barks, but he got me on the backswing.”