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1970s / 1973 Wimbledon Boycott
In May 1973 Nikola (Niki) Pilic, Yugoslavia's number-one-ranked male tennis player, was suspended by his national tennis association. The governing body claimed he had refused to play in a Davis Cup tie for Yugoslavia against New Zealand earlier that month. Today tennis players routinely turn down invitations to play for their countries in Davis Cup competition, but back in 1973 it was considered a big no-no--especially in an eastern European country. Pilic denied he had done so. Be that as it may, Pilic was initially suspended for nine months. Yugoslavia's suspension was supported by the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF), but it was later reduced to just one month. Nevertheless, that month happened to be when the prestigious Wimbledon championships took place. Thus, Pilic would not be permitted to play at Wimbledon. The recently formed men's players union, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), stated that if Pilic was not allowed to compete, none of its membership should compete. As a result, 81 of the top players, including reigning champion Stan Smith, boycotted Wimbledon in 1973 to protest Pilic's suspension. The initial seeding for the men's draw had already taken place. Thirteen of the 16 men's seeds withdrew. This resulted in an enormous number of qualifiers and lucky losers getting into the main draw. Three leading ATP players, Ilie Nastase, Roger Taylor and Ray Keldie, defied the boycott and were fined by the ATP's disciplinary committee. Also among those who chose to play were two rising stars: Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors, who each advanced to the quarterfinals. Despite the boycott, the attendance of 300,172 was the second highest in Wimbledon's history at that time. The eventual men's champion was Jan Kodes of Czechoslovakia. He defeated Alex Metreveli of the Soviet Union 6-1, 9-8, 6-3 in the final. (Tiebreakers were played at 8-8 in those days.) Kodes is shown here planting a kiss on the championship trophy.