Remember the 'Get Smart' series ? Outstanding humor, Maxwell was famous for many quotes but one in particular 'missed it by that much' is rather apt for this chapter.
The 1985 US Open Men's Doubles Final saw American pair Ken Flach and Robert Seguso up against French stars Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte, best of 5 sets, as it was back then. This match was between two teams who had rather different results in major tournaments , Noah and Leconte were the 1984 French Open Doubles winners, Flach and Seguso did not own a major. This title match would cement the French as one the best teams in the world for a second year in a row or give the American's their first major.
Flach had a hairstyle not unlike the lead singer of Def Leppard, my favorite rock band of the 80's, this hairstyle would become 'infamous' by the end of the match. I remember watching Flach play in Queensland in a Challenger Tournament , he had an unusual style, very abbreviated ground strokes which he followed to the net, effective. Seguso had a huge serve, these guys were a very talented team.
Noah and Leconte had a lot of flair about the way they played , proven singles players but an accomplished doubles pairing also that sent their home crowd delirious a year earlier with a win in Paris. Huge serves , flashy ground strokes and both could volley well, the sort of team you would pick to play for you on a Nintendo computer game.
The issue with 4 big servers is the lack of rallying, a big serve and solid volley will take many sets to a tie breaker and ask for a slice of luck, as was the case in this final. The Frenchmen took the first in a breaker 7 points to 5, the Americans took the second in a breaker 7 points to 1, an unusual blow out in a set decider, the third set went to another tie break.
Now anyone who knows anything about tennis will realize that a two sets to one lead is crucial, momentum in tennis is everything, spirits can lift with a lead , fighting back can take it's toll both physically and mentally. This third set tie breaker will go down in history for all the wrong reasons.....
At 6-4 to the Frenchmen , with 2 set points up for grabs Leconte played with his usual flair and went for a forehand drive volley, no holding back, he struck it beautifully. He unfortunately clipped the top of the net but he had a 'lifeline' as it's path was straight at the shoulder of Flach who instinctively turned to get out of the way of the ball.
Now according to the Frenchmen the ball either hit Flach on the shoulder or brushed his flowing locks, either way they claimed the point and the set plus a two sets to one lead. Why didn't the umpire see it? Noah and Leconte accused Flach of cheating, not owning up to the 'contact' , if there was any at all, the Americans denied any wrong doing. The French put all their toys back in the toy box and went home, mentally, they lost the fourth set 0-6 without even trying.
Flach and Seguso were booed at the trophy presentation , at their first Grand Slam title that happened to be on home soil, such was the public affection for Noah and Leconte , two very World wide popular professionals. Flach and Seguso went on to win Wimbledon twice and one more US Open title, the Frenchmen didn't win another.
The Davis Cup final of 1991 was perhaps their belated revenge.
The final held in Lyon , France saw a retired Yannick Noah as the French Davis Cup Captain with Leconte pairing up with Guy Forget, another talented left handed Frenchman. The two beat Flach and Seguso in the crucial doubles match and they went on to claim the Cup three matches to one.
Only Flach knows to this day whether or not the ball actually touched him, shoulder or hair, he will take that secret with him when he goes, one of the game's all time greatest speculations...........
Ken Flach and his partner Rob Seguso and a hairstyle that was the centre of controversy in 1985.