pierre barthes

Panatta’s First Win Over Borg

There was much talk of Adriano Panatta being the only player to ever beat Bjorn Borg at the French Open in lieu of Robin Soderling’s startling Sunday upset of Rafael Nadal – handing the four-time defending champion his first ever loss at Roland Garros. Borg won six French titles in eight appearances with Panatta ending the other two Borg runs. The first Borg loss happened on June 2, 1973 – as documented below from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com). Panatta’s other win came in the quarterfinals of the 1976 French Open, where he defeated the Swede 6-3, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 en route to the title. Panatta had another salient win on this day, back in 1976 as you will also read below. The following is the entire June 2 chapter of ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY.

June 2

1973 – Adriano Panatta of Italy ends the upset run of 16-year-old Bjorn Borg of Sweden in the fourth round of the French Open, beating the future six-time champion 7-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6. Borg, playing in his first major event, plays the event seven more times in his career and loses one other time – again to Panatta in the quarterfinals in 1976. Borg’s ring of upset victims in the tournament include No. 9 seed Cliff Richey of the United States in the first round, Pierre Barthes of France in the second round and Dick Stockton of the United States in the third round. Says Stockton of Borg after his 6-7, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 loss, “He’s got a really great future ahead of him. He works really hard and is a dedicated player and he deserved to win.”

1962 – Rod Laver wins the second leg of his eventual “Grand Slam” sweep of all four major singles titles, coming back from two-set-to-love down to defeat fellow Australian Roy Emerson 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 9-7, 6-2 in the final of the French Championships. According to UPI wire dispatches of the final, “The last three sets were excellently played, and the fourth and fifth brought the 3,500 fans in Roland Garros Stadium to their feet cheering on a number of occasions.” Laver trails 0-3 in the fourth set, but rallies to take the extended fourth set before breaking Emerson twice to ride out the fifth set. The previous day, Laver finishes off a darkness delayed five-set semifinal win over fellow Aussie Neale Fraser 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, with the match being resumed at 2-2 in the fifth set. In the quarterfinals, in another all-Aussie affair, Laver saves a match point in a five-set win over Marty Mulligan. Nineteen-year-old Margaret Smith, herself who herself would capture a Grand Slam in 1970, wins the French women’s singles title, also defeating a fellow Aussie, Lesley Turner, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the final.

1994 – Steffi Graf is shockingly dominated in the semifinals of the French Open as native hope Mary Pierce of France crushes the world’s top-ranked player 6-2, 6-2. Says Graf, “There was very little I could do. She attacked the ball, took it early, played very deep and very hard and my level of game wasn’t enough to push her to make some errors.” Pierce advances into the final with the loss of only 10 games in six matches, but falls to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the championship match.

1976 – Adriano Panatta, the No. 5 seed from Italy, saves a match point and survives a first-round scare at the French Open, defeating Czech Pavel Hutka 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, 0-6, 12-10. The match becomes crucial and significant in the annals of the French Championships as Panatta goes on to win the title, becoming the fourth man to win the singles title after trailing by a match point.

1982 – Two years removed for a bout of hepatitis that threatened his tennis career, Jose Higueras advances to the semifinals of the French Open with a  6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory over top-seeded Jimmy Connors. Guillermo Vilas also advances into the semifinals with a 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Yannick Noah of France.