The Chinese tennis festival continues

It’s not just Ashe-Connors or McEnroe-Borg. Tonight Macau TV brings me Chris Evert vs Martina Navratilova, Wimbledon finals, 1978. The one, like McEnroe-Borg three years later, looks quite retro. Evert, then 23, still has baby fat. Navratilova — 21 years old, pre-blonde, pre-defection to the US, pre-out, pre-chic — has very dark chestnut hair and a clunky Eastern Bloc look. Both women use wooden rackets.

Why look at these old matches, given my previous protestation that sports is worth watching only if you don’t know how things turn out? Because there is a different kind of real-time tension built into the matches.

 We know, watching decades later, what the outcome means. Navratilova — who, as I watch, is down one set — will soon rally to win the match, the first of her nine singles championships at Wimbledon. Evert will never beat her at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open from this point on. But neither she nor Navratilova knows that as they struggle for control of the third set, just as Bjorn Borg doesn’t know, while battling John McEnroe in 1981 (in the match shown last night), that even though he has won the past five Wimbledon championships plus six of the previous seven French Opens, he will never win a Grand Slam title again. Watching with this extra knowledge, is a little sad — but interesting.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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