Mem­o­ries of a fa­mous vic­tory

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By JOSEPH RO­MANOS

This blurred but his­toric photo ar­rived in Wellington ten­nis leg­end Onny Parun’s email in­box the other day and brought back mem­o­ries of one of the great – if un­her­alded – days in New Zealand sport.

It was taken just be­fore the 1974 French Open ten­nis dou­bles fi­nal, in which the scratch pair­ing of Parun and Aus­tralian Dick Cre­aly up­set tour­na­ment favourites Stan Smith and Bob Lutz of the United States.

Parun’s tri­umph was the only time since World War I that a New Zealan­der has won a Grand Slam ten­nis ti­tle, and was one of the high points in a long ca­reer of con­sid­er­able achieve­ment.

‘‘I have no mem­ory of that photo be­ing taken,’’ Parun said.

‘‘It was ob­vi­ously taken by an of­fi­cial pho­tog­ra­pher, be­cause we wouldn’t have gath­ered at the net be­fore the match if it was just a spec­ta­tor want­ing a pic­ture.’’

The photo was sent to Parun by his friend Vit­to­rio Salmi, a long­time ATP of­fi­cial.

Un­like to­day, in 1974 the lead­ing play­ers en­tered the dou­bles as well, so in Paris that year, such play­ers as Ilie Nas­tase, Arthur Ashe, Guillermo Vi­las, Bjorn Borg, Jan Kodes, Manuel Orantes and, of course, Smith were in the field.

‘‘ I hadn’t played much with Dick, but he was a good bloke, and I got on well with the Aussies, so we de­cided to give it a go. He was an odd sort of player in that some­times, for no par­tic­u­lar rea­son, he would stay back and start play­ing from the base­line. I couldn’t quite fig­ure it out, but luck­ily, nei­ther could our op­po­nents.’’

Parun and Cre­aly nearly didn’t sur­vive the first round, beat­ing Ital­ians Gior­dano Maioli and Ser­gio Tac­chini 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 (only the fi­nal was best of five sets).

They then breezed past Mex­i­cans Luis Baraldi and Jose Reyes 6-1, 6-4 and knocked out highly rated Zeljko Fran­ule­vic (Yu­goslavia) and Is­mail el Shafei (Egypt) 6-3, 3-6, 8-6.

In the quar­ter­fi­nals they elim­i­nated sec­ond seeds Juan Gis­bert ( Spain) and Nas­tase (Ro­ma­nia) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Hit­ting their best form, they were too good for sixth seeds Borg ( Swe­den) and Alex Me­trev­eli (Soviet Union) in the semis, win­ning 7-5, 6-0.

Against the bril­liant Amer­i­can team they were heavy un­der­dogs, but be­gan sen­sa­tion­ally, tak­ing the first two sets 6-3, 6-2. Smith and Lutz fought back to take the next two 6-3, 7-5, but Parun and Cre­aly breezed through the fi­nal set 6-1.

‘‘They were con­fi­dent be­fore the match be­cause we were only a scratch pair,’’ Parun said.

‘‘But we led them two sets to one and 4-1 in the fourth, with a dou­ble ser­vice break.

‘‘I couldn’t be­lieve we lost the fourth set, but it turned out OK.

‘‘We were aware Bob [Lutz] was suf­fer­ing from a bit of a knee in­jury and he got worse as the match pro­gressed. Stan [ Smith] was out­stand­ing, as usual.’’

Parun said it took a long while for the sig­nif­i­cance of the match to sink in.

‘‘I look back now and I’m very proud to have won a Grand Slam dou­bles, es­pe­cially on clay, which was never my best sur­face.

‘‘ At the time, I didn’t re­ally dwell on the re­sult.’’

The win­ning team split 30,000 in French francs – about US$8000.

‘‘We fin­ished re­ally late, and had to rush to the air­port to get to Not­ting­ham for a tour­na­ment the next day.

‘‘I don’t think we even changed and we dashed out, clutch­ing our prize money in cash.’’

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