Wimbledon, England — They are ready at Wimbledon. The strawberries have been trucked in from the south of England; the cream from the west. And the Wimbledon groundskeepers have the covers off as they roll what are known the world over as not only the fastest tournament playing courts, but the most famous.
Two names dominate talk by officials, the press, and even the other competitors: Bjorn Borg and Tracy Austin.
Borg, as all the world knows, is trying for an unprecedented fifth men's singles title. The last time the powerful young Swede lost a match at Wimbledon was July 1, 1975, when Arthur Ashe, the eventual champion, defeated him 2-6, 6-4 , 8-6, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
Bjorn has won the title every year since then. He defeated Ilie Nastase in the 1976 final, overcame archrival Jimmy Connors in both 1977 and 1978, then last year beat Connors in the semifinals and Roscoe Tanner in the final.
This year, Connors (seeded third) and Tanner (No. 5) are back at Wimbledon, and each hopes to get another crack at Borg on Centre Court.
For Borg, the object of countless television interviews and magazine profiles , winning here would be a grand lead-in to his July 24 wedding to Romanian tennis player Mariana Simionescu. A secondary goal, one which he'd achieve by winning his first four matches, is to break Rod Laver's record of 31 consecutive match victories.
There was a little flutter over Bjorn's first match Monday, when he met Egyptian lefthander Ismail El Shafei, who beat him here in 1974. But Borg, who often has had problems getting untracked in his early round matches, stroked his way to a confident 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory in this year's rain-interrupted opener.
Austin, the 17-year-old Californian, is competing at Wimbledon for the third time. In 1978, she burst onto the courts as the youngest player in the history of this great tennis classic.
Last year, her two-fisted backhand, determination, and impossible wide-angle drive from the baseline took her to the semifinals, where Martina Navratilova defeated her en route to a second straight title. This year, Navratilova is seeded No. 1, Austin No. 2, and two-time former champion Chris Evert Lloyd, No. 3.
Tracy says that this year, the 103nd for the All England Club to host Wimbledon, the pressure is on the Texas-based Czech and that this should give the American high-schooler the advantage.
To prove her assertion, Tracy raced through a grass court tournament held in the south of England a week before Wimbledon. She beat Wendy Turnbull of Australia in the finals 7-6, 6-2. One ace, one drop shot executed from the back court, and a down-the-line forehand gave her the edge she wanted and needed.
Wimbledon tournament play lasts for twelve days (through July 5) with some 300,000 spectators expected. The BBC provides full coverage during play, and an hour- long review of highlights each evening.
Tennis writers from throughout the world have been accredited to cover the Wimbledon fortnight, which traditionally produces the most popular, and often most exciting, tennis played anywhere.
Will there be any surprises this year? If so, tennis buffs agree, one possibility in the women's draw is 15-year-old Andrea Jaeger, the winner of three different American age-group championships last year.