He was a stylish man, this Italian with the delectable name of Adriano Panatta. His was a game learned with a wood racquet, on clay courts, the result being that on those sublime days, Panatta could seemingly do everything with the ball but make it talk – his Continental grip issuing crackling drives, sharp serves, nimble volleys and that touch of inspiration that separates an artist from a craftsman.
On this day in 1973, in the Roland Garros round of 16, Panatta had ended the Cinderella run of a 16-year-old precocious Swede, Bjorn Borg. But three years to the day later, in the first round of the 1976 French Open, Panatta faced a match point versus Czech Pavel Hutka. He fought that off, winning the match by the bizarre score of 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, 0-6, 12-10.
In the quarters, Panatta once again faced Borg – who by this time was the two-time Roland Garros champion. But here too, Panatta vanquished the Swede, his vast array thoroughly in form. Those two victories made him the only man to beat Borg at Roland Garros.
Naturally, Panatta followed up that win over Borg with a run to the title, closing out his run with victories over the two American men journalist Bud Collins had dubbed, “The Bagel Twins,” Eddie Dibbs and Harold Solomon.
(with thanks to Randy Walker and Mikki Singh for their app, On This Day in Tennis History)
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