Did the heat, the airplanes from nearby LaGuardia and the usual ridiculous scheduling—unlike any other Grand Slam event, the Open has the semis and finals on successive days—bother our friends from West Germany? Ja. Did they let it affect them? Nein. In fact, of the seven majors Graf has won, this was her most courageous performance.
Both Sabatini and Navratilova could easily have beaten Graf. Sabatini led 6-3, but Graf bore down and body-punched her weary rival into submission, despite an attack of cramps. After her 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory, an ashen-faced Graf fled the court in tears and was treated in the locker room with liquids and an ice massage.
As for Martina, with Evert getting all that attention, hardly anybody noticed that Navratilova was winning her matches in approximately 37 seconds. For her semifinal match against Garrison, which Navratilova won 7-6, 6-2, she showed up in an ensemble featuring leather epaulettes and cuffs. It obviously put her on the cutting edge of country and western tennis fashion. "We're looking for a manufacturer," said Navratilova's companion, Judy Nelson. "If the public wants more information, they can call 1-800-MARTINA." We are not making this up.
In the final, Navratilova roared ahead 6-3, 4-2. She was serving like a woman possessed, ripping off some of the best tennis of her life. She had the championship won, and she knew it. Starting the countdown, Martina held up two fingers: two more games.
But while serving at 4-3, she faltered. She still has all her muscles and shots, but gone are the grit and tenacity. She double-faulted once. She double-faulted again. She slugged a volley too deep and the lead was gone. In the next game Navratilova had a break point for a 5-4 lead and another chance to serve for the match. "Virtually match point for me," she said later. Instead, Martina squandered another opportunity.
Quite simply, that was it. Faced with having to hold serve to remain in contention, Martina committed two unforced errors and lost the second set 7-5. After both women ran from the court early in the third to change tops and avoid a soaking wet T(ennis)-shirt contest, Graf swarmed all over Navratilova to lock up her second straight Open, 6-1 in the third. "I thought I had lost," said Graf, "but I kept fighting. I think I made her do more."
Like think. And think some more. And come to the horrifying realization that this wasn't Regina Rajchrtova or Julie Halard across the net but the great Graf. Regrettably, Navratilova refuses to acknowledge the champion's mettle, her superior competitiveness. In a graceless postmatch interview, she said that she herself had not played well and that Graf "swings for the fences...was lucky...hit so many unbelievable lines...hit a ball going to the rafters until it swirled in." Thanks, Martina. You all done now?
"I was a point from winning this thing, an inch," said a bitter Navratilova. "Tennis is such a game of inches. Look at Becker. He was half an inch from being out of the tournament in the first week, and [if he'd lost] you guys would be calling him a bunch of crap."
Hardly. Rather, does anyone possess anything but the highest regard for Becker, who seems to be unmatched among his peers in popularity? Consider that Lendl complained at a players' meeting just before the tournament about a proposal to alter the distribution of prize money next year by whining, "How can I make enough money?" Consider that when one of his second serves was delayed a few moments during his semifinal because a ball girl pulled up lame, Lendl requested two serves. Obviously, the field for the humanitarian award at the top of the sport isn't exactly crowded.
Becker even had nice things to say about New York: "I enjoy your city. This is a great place for three weeks."