THE DAILY TELEGRAPH – Tuesday 31st May 1983
DELIGHTED DURIE TOPPLES AUSTIN
Jo Durie confidently and excitedly provided British lawn tennis yesterday with it’s finest individual moment since Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977 by reaching the semi-finals of the French Open in Paris.
On the surface where her natural attacking talents would seem least likely to flourish and against an opponent whose game was made for clay, the Bristol girl, 22, player a marvellously smart as well as positive match to defeat fourth-seeded Tracy Austin 6-1 4-6 6-0.
Purely in tennis terms her progress past five Americans here, three of them seeds, arguably surpasses that by Sue Barker when, as top seed in the year that most of the leading players were absent, she became champion in 1976 without meeting a seed.
Four years of increasingly dedicated effort, interrupted first by four months necessary for a wrist operation and then, much more seriously, six months for a back operation has led to this breakthrough at the highest level two years ahead of the forecast of her London coach, Alan Jones.
In a sense, however, the signs were there first when she took a set from Martina Navratilova at Eastbourne last June and again when she led Miss Austin 4-0, 30-0 in Boston in March.
These matches included exactly the spells of inspiration needed to give the outwardly reserved and inwardly determined Miss Durie the encouragement to apply her obvious power with a freedom and sensible care.
On the centre court at Roland Garros where the Duchess of Gloucester, an avid tennis follower and the first member of the British Royal Family to visit these championships arrived minutes after Miss Durie struck her match-winning volley, these qualities shone in abundance.
Apart from one tentative spell towards the end of the second set when she lost two points for a 5-3, the second on a controversial over-rule by the Belgian umpire, Miss Durie was always in control and a third set need not have been necessary.
Four of the first nine points brought wonderfully forthright winners from her and of the seven points she lost in moving 5-0 only one was in error. As Miss Durie kept reminding herself; “Just keep playing the way you are, she’s not doing anything to hurt me”.
Once she had recovered from that spell when her normally reliable backhand went adrift. Miss Durie kept thumping her forehand, slicing balls awkwardly to Miss Austin’s double-handed backhand and volleying and smashing whenever the opportunity was presented.
It was heady stuff. Miss Austin called the third set “one of the worst of my career”. Clearly she is a pale shadow of the player we recall 18 months ago, but at the same time Miss Durie played some of the best tennis of her life.
Miss Austin won only seven points in the final set, the last when Miss Durie double-faulted on the first of her match points and could afford the broad, apologetic grin.
Miss Durie, who also reached the quarter-finals of the women’s doubles with Anne Hobbs, next meets the 1977 champion, Mima Jausovec, the Yugoslav whose competitive toughness routed Kathy Horvath, the stunning victor over Miss Navratilova, 6-1 6-1.
In their only previous meeting this year Miss Jausovec lost on a fast carpet in Chicago but there will be great pressure on Miss Durie, who, for the first time since the second round, will be expected to win. She is ranked 27th in the world and Miss Jausovec 44th.
John McEnroe was back in the spotlight, happily proving this time in a 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-1 win over Eliot Teltscher that it is still possible for him to produce brilliant tennis, though well below his sustained best, while curbing his emotions at the same time.
Now for Wilander
Just occasionally there were ominous glares at linesmen which suggested he was having to work hard to keep his self-control, but McEnroe’s problem was his own serve.
He was broken in the opening service game of all four sets, but though Teltscher, attacking from the net far more than usual, and picking off some spectacular volleys, kept threatening an upset. McEnroe always seemed to have enough in reserve with which to respond.
McEnroe now meets defending champion Mats Wilander, 18, for the only time in competition apart from their epic Davis Cup indoor clash in St Louis last July when the American won after five sets and six hours 32 minutes.
Wilander was patience personified while establishing authority over fellow countryman Henrik Sundstrom, 19, but one hour 28 minutes over a 6-4 set is an awfully long time, even for Swedish enthusiasts. Wilander then sped it up, needing exactly one hour less over the second set, which he took 6-1. The third was 6-3.
Singles (Rank : 26) (High : 1 - 11 weeks)
Titles (12) - 2012 - New Haven, SF - WIMBLEDON, 2013 - Beijing, GB Fed Cup, 2014 - Brisbane, Dubai, Stuttgart, Rome, YEC Singapore, 2015 - Stanford, GB Fed Cup, ITF - Antayla, 2016 - Bogota, Olympics, 2017 - Nurnberg, QF - FRENCH OPEN
Doubles - (Rank : 39) (High : 1 - 32 weeks)
Titles - (23) - 2010 - Bogota, Bad Gastein, ITF Karuizawa, ITF Montpellier, 2011 - Bogota, Birmingham, ITF Poitiers, ITF Bratislava, 2012 - ITF Opole, 2013 - Bad Gastein, ITF Bertioga, 2014 - WIMBLEDON, Bad Gastein, 2015 - Nottingham, ITF Ortisei, 2016 - Brisbane, ITF Glasgow, St Petersburg, ITF Toyota, 2017 - ITF Contrexeville, Bastad, Stanford, ITF Balatonboglar