WIMBLEDON, England (UPI) — Arthur Ashe turned the world's top-ranked star into just another tennis player Saturday to smother Jimmy Connors' power game and win his first Wimbledon singles title, 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.
He achieved what he but few others had predicted with a game of subtlety and intelligence which toppled Connors from his defending champion's perch, earned him $23,000 and gave him, along with his WCT championship crown, two of the most prized titles in tennis in the space of two months.
Ashe took command in the first set, serving wide to Connors' forehand to eliminate his blistering returns and changing the pace of the game to prevent the top seed from Belleville, Ill., from finding his powerful rhythm that had brought him to the final without the loss of a set. He never attempted to match Connors for power, instead resorting to his pre-match strategy.
"You will notice that I didn't play my usual game," said Ashe. "What I played was the kind of game that would beat Jimmy Connors. Somehow, I don't know why, I have always felt that this would be my year. And I was not surprised when I won."
Connors was subdued after the 2-hour, 4-minute match, knowing he had not played anywhere near the form he had showed in the early rounds.
"I must realize — and you must realize — that every time I go out onto court, I can lose," he told a news conference.
"Ashe played as well as I have ever seen him play. It was tough for me to get into the match. He didn't give me much to hit at," Connors said.
The first set was over in 19 minutes. Ashe held his service with a large percentage of good first serves followed by a volley which killed most rallies in their tracks.
He broke Connors in the third, fifth and seventh games, and went to 3-0 in the second set to sweep eight games in a row. By this time, Connors, who normally dominates all opponents, was looking rattled and produced a flurry of wild shots which ended any hopes he had of getting back into the set.
Ashe used a sliced forehand and even a lob, often considered his worst shot, to keep Connors on the defensive. In another 25 minutes, he was two sets up for the loss of just two games and the 15,000 center court crowd was staggered. Connors had gone into the final the heaviest odds-on favorite since Rod Laver ruled the All-England courts, yet he looked like a first-round loser.
Connors found his touch only once. He began to find the lines in the third set and after an exchange of breaks, produced three flashing service returns to break Ashe and take the set 7-5.
It seemed as though Connors had come out of his shell and the match was alive again. When he broke to lead 3-0 in the fourth set, Connors had it within his power to complete an astonishing comeback. He even had just a point to go for a 4-1 lead on Ashe's serve, "but I played a real bad shot and that was that," said Connors.
Ashe broke back to 3-3 and then in the ninth game, with Connors serving, came the last and final break.
A series of serves which Connors could not handle and a backhand passing shot that hummed down the line gave Ashe two break points. When Connors failed to put away a comparatively easy volley, Ashe raced across the court and hit a running forehand so powerful that Connors could only get his racket to it and had to watch it go hopelessly along.
Ashe then served at 5-4 for the match.
"I knew exactly what I was going to do. I felt anxiety, so in a situation like that, you have to have a plan and stick to it," said Ashe afterwards.
He set up two match points with his consistently good first serves and then served another one wide to Connors' forehand. The top seed again just got his racket to it and sent the ball high in the air. Ashe stood by the net and just tapped it back.
"I think it's the second greatest victory of my life. Winning the Davis Cup for my country was the greatest and this and Forest Hills joint second," he said.
"I set my sights on this at the start of the year. Was I surprised to be leading 6-1, 6-1? Well, I don't want to sound as though I am bragging, but if you are a good player and you find yourself winning easily, you are not surprised."
Connors clearly was. "It was one of those days. He just did everything right. It's a game of inches," he said and left with his $13,800 loser's purse.
The unseeded team of Ann Kiyomura, of San Mateo, Calif., and Kazuko Sawamatsu, Japan, squeezed out a 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 victory over Betty Stove, the Netherlands, and Francoise Durr, France, to take the women's doubles champoionship.
The agile Japanese-American and her partner fed on Miss Durr's weak serve in the first and third sets, breaking her three times in each. In the final set, after four consecutive service breaks, Miss Kiyomura took her game with a strong volley which took the score to 40-15 and, after Miss Durr won her point, a good first service which Miss Stove netted.
The young winners girls did not meet a seeded team en route to the finals, while the veteran Stove-Durr team defeated fours-seeded Margaret Court and Virginia Wade and second-seeded Bille Jean King and Rosemary Casals.
The win was so popular the Japanese-American pair was applauded by bystanders outside the center court when they went to pose for photographs with the silver championship cup on an outside court.
"We always though we had a chance," Miss Kiyomura said, "especially after we won the Japan Open and other tournaments. In today's finals, my serve wasn't working well and I dropped it several times. But it came through for me at the right time."
Marty Risen of Amelia Island, Fla., and Australia's Margaret Court were the only top seeds to justify their ranking. They won the mixed doubles 6-4, 7-5 against Alan Stone of Australia and Miss Stove.
On Saturday, Billie Jean King won her sixth Wimbledon crown with a 6-0, 6-1 win against Evonne Goolagong Cawley of Australia to close out her big time tennis career.