For a while all was well. She raced past Peggy Michel and Karen Krantzcke in straight sets and then met Julie Heldman, to whom she had lost only twice in innumerable encounters. Curiously, the match was scheduled for Court 22 out in the boondocks. Well, actually, in front of the clubhouse terrace, where the members can sit, relax, sip their drinks and watch such matches as Isabel Fernandez versus Kathy May. King seemed miffed throughout the match, perhaps because the court was no smoother than a rock garden or perhaps because she felt she should be about 300 yards away, in the Stadium. Nonetheless, she beat Heldman 6-3 in the first set and was leading 4-1 in the second when she became ill, suffering from chills, feeling faint and moving no better than a statue. Heldman won five games in a row to take the second set 6-4 and was leading 4-1 in the third when King quit.
Knowing Billie Jean was in bad shape, Heldman asked the umpire if the one-minute rest period was up. She was not going to permit her opponent any more time than the rules allowed.
"O.K.," said King. "If you want it that badly, you can have it."
The tournament doctor examined King and reported that she had been battling a cold and taking penicillin. In addition, she had not taken enough salt tablets. Defaulting was the best thing she could have done, he said.
"I started getting goose bumps," King said later. "I couldn't see the ball. I couldn't react. I did the best I could. I was just hoping I could do better."
Everybody had figured that King, Court, Goolagong and Chris Evert would reach the semis, but King's departure left a vacancy and it was surprisingly filled by Helga Masthoff of West Germany, a tall, delicate woman who serves off one leg like a flamingo and whose strokes would not dent a cream puff. One could picture her on the cover of Vogue but never World Tennis. Goolagong was lucky enough to have Masthoff in her half of the draw and battered her 6-1 in the first set. But Masthoff grew on the spectators with her accurate pit-a-pats, gained confidence and actually forced Goolagong to go three sets before Evonne won 6-4 in the third.
Court, who had beaten Great Britain's Virginia Wade in two tie-breaker sets in the quarterfinals, drew Evert in the semis, just as she had at Wimbledon, where Evert beat her in three sets. Although no longer the crowd's cute little Chrissie of two years ago, Evert is still a bit of an ingenue at 18, still gets a Stadium court assignment for almost every match and still, as she admits, has a lot to learn, namely how to volley effectively and hit overheads. Court won 7-5, 2-6, 6-2, Evert's third-straight loss in the Forest Hills semis.
"When Margaret comes to net, she's so tough to get past," said Evert.
In the final on Saturday, Goolagong gave Margaret a good battle for two sets despite her weak second serve, losing the first in a tie breaker 7-6, winning the second 7-5. But Court broke her first serve in the third set and won rather handily 6-2.
Last year Billie Jean King received only $10,000 for winning the women's title, as opposed to Nastase's $25,000, but this year the people who make Ban deodorant donated $55,000 to make the female prize pool equal, even though the women play three sets instead of five and have only half as large a draw to get through. So for her victory Court earned a whopping $25,000 and a new car, the same as Newcombe. She now has won $157,400 in prize money in 1973 and seems eminently capable of passing the $200,000 mark before Christmas. If she does not earn another penny, she already has enjoyed the most lucrative year in the history of women's sports, a thought that must soothe her when she thinks of Bobby Riggs.