The beginning of the Open era was very chaotic and things didn't look much better by the end of the 70s as well, with different organizations, uncategorized tournaments and complex computer ranking. One thing was sure, though, as the one could have found Jimmy Connors at the top of the title leaders list year after year, conquering almost 80 ATP crowns between 1973-1980!
Jimmy was the leading figure in 1978, dropping just six matches and lifting ten titles from 12 finals, including the US Open. After a great start on an indoor carpet court at home in the USA and Rotterdam, Jimmy missed more than a month and a half, skipping the entire clay season and returning with a grass title in Birmingham and the final of Wimbledon where he lost to Bjorn Borg.
Connors was the player to beat on green Har-Tru clay in Washington and Indianapolis but unlike in the previous three seasons, that wasn't the surface at the US Open, with the event moving from the famous West Side Tennis Club venue in Forest Hills where it was held since 1915 to the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, a $10 million worth complex on 16-acre with 34 indoor and outdoor courts!
This was the first Major tournament on the hard court and Jimmy became the first player in history to win Grand Slam titles on all three different surfaces and also at the same event, going all the way at the US Open on grass in 1974 and on clay in 1976.
The first three rounds were played in the best-of-three sets and the majority of the favorites had reached the second week, with Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulaitis surviving all the obstacles to enter the semis.
Jimmy and Bjorn were the best players in the world at that moment and they set the 13th meeting on the Tour, with Connors leading 7-5 in head to head encounters. After losing Wimbledon final to the Swede, the American was the dominant force in front of the home fans, scoring a one-sided 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win on September 10 for the third US Open crown in the last five years.
Bjorn never liked to play on hard courts in New York, especially at night, and he would never win the US Open title, with Connors and McEnroe proving too strong in every year before Bjorn decided to leave the Tour. Jimmy faced no break points in the entire clash and created no less than 17 chances on the return, converting five to bring the victory home in straight sets.
Jimmy served at almost 80% and kept everything under control, mounting the pressure on his rival with deep and aggressive strokes and demolishing Borg in the mid-range rallies to secure the title. The first game turned into a marathon contest, with 20 points and five break opportunities for Connors.
He failed to convert any of those and Bjorn brought the game home with a service winner to avoid an early setback before suffering a break in the fifth game after a vast forehand error, allowing Jimmy to cement the lead with three winners in the next game to move 4-2 ahead.
Borg had to save two set points in the ninth game to prolong the set and a left-handed Connors clinched it with a service winner after deuce a few minutes later for a 6-4. Unable to find the range or impose his shots, Borg sprayed a forehand mistake in the third game of the second set to suffer another break, playing against three more break chances at 1-3.
Jimmy squandered them all but that was hardly an obstacle for him, serving well and earning another break at 4-2 when he forced an error from Bjorn to serve for the set. The crowd favorite secured the set after another backhand error from the Swede and was just a set away from lifting the crown and writing history.
Connors made another big step in the third game of the third set when he broke Bjorn for the fourth time, racing towards the finish line with another break t 3-1, putting one hand on that trophy. A lucky net cord gave Connors the match point in the eighth game, completing the victory with a service winner to celebrate the title and write his name in the history books as the first Major champion on hard courts and at the new US Open complex.