For all of her
outward cordiality, Sarah clearly took her first tournament in 24 years with
more than passing seriousness. Early on the first day, she scouted several
mixed doubles matches and reported to Alphonso: "There's a certain lady out
there—if we meet her, I think we'll give her plenty of lobs." Sarah and
Alphonso won their opening match handily 6-1, 6-0. She showed up the next day
with several packets of Sportade, a new compound for energy, then bought a
floppy hat "because I was having trouble with those indoor lights on my
serve." That afternoon she gathered a bucket of balls and a volunteer and
went out to practice her serve.
nervous—a little," she confessed. "That's why I plan to warm up a bit
before each match. I have never played a match in all my days when I wasn't a
little nervous, even against poor players. Alphonso is a good partner to have,
a sound thinker with a great return of the serve. Not a great volleyer but a
good one, very heady, very dependable.
"I still like
the net. I'm aggressive, I always loved to run in and put the shot away. Today
I run to the net, but I don't put it away as much. But Alphonso is good in the
backcourt." Sarah and Alphonso breezed through the quarter-finals 6-2, 6-1,
and made the finals when a scheduling gaffe caused Joe Ciano, a judge from San
Bernardino, to default by refusing to play a third tough match on Saturday.
The finals on
Sunday found Sarah and Alphonso facing the rangy team of Mrs. George Prince of
Seattle and Len Dworkin, a retired detective sergeant with the Los Angeles
county sheriff's office. That match was delayed for 10 minutes when Sarah
dashed off the court after a few warmup shots and raced for the clubhouse.
"Good heavens," wailed Alphonso, dropping his racket in mock disgust.
"Do you know what she did? She forgot to put on her tennis pants."
Dworkin, a strong
hitter, played to Sarah with modestly good results, but Alphonso, serving up an
amazing variety of drop shots, backhand chops and a cross-court looping
forehand, kept things under control. After flubbing a few early shots, Sarah
steadied down at the net and the two old champs won the first set 6-4. Things
got a bit sticky in the second set when Dworkin-Prince led 2-0, at which point
Alphonso cautioned: "Sarah, be sure of the middle shot. Don't poach unless
you're sure of the shot." Sarah and Alphonso pulled even, then went ahead
5-3 and won the set and the match and the title 6-3.
"Oh, we'd have
lots of strategy sessions," Sarah beamed happily at the finish. "We
decided to mix them up against Mrs. Prince, but she did play awfully well. We
figured Mr. Dworkin would poach a lot and try to upset me. He did a bit, but
fortunately he didn't aim it at me quite as much as we expected. It was much
tougher than 42 years ago. Then we did it on raisins. Today we did it on