"I must say I'm playing well right now for me," said Wade with a smile. "Long may it last."
It lasted long enough to carry her through what was easily the finest match of the tournament. The first day was single-elimination and Wade knocked out willowy Wendy Overton 6-3, 6-1. Then the tournament moved into round-robin play, with the eight survivors divided into two groups. Wade beat Mona Schallau, then met budding author Heldman.
Heldman won the first set in a tie breaker 7-6, but Wade took the second 6-2 and seemed well on her way to winning her 13th match in a row. But all of a sudden Heldman won five straight games and led 5-1. Tinling left his seat to call the BBC in London and Wade saw him go. She admitted later that she relaxed at that point.
She then broke Heldman's serve, held her own and trailed 3-5 going into what turned out to be a marvelous ninth game. Heldman had match point five times, just one point from a big upset, and could not get it. Wade broke her, held serve, broke Heldman again, held again and won 7-5.
"She couldn't hit a ball in," said Wade. "She was shaking like a leaf."
"Choked on a match point," said Heldman. "I choked. I don't have a killer instinct."
Homicidal or not, Heldman went on to beat Schallau, lost to Olga Morozova and went home with $8,000.
The next night Wade was beaten by Navratilova in straight sets and her streak ended. But she had been playing some of the best tennis of her life, and this might be the year that Fleet Street can dust off its largest type for her long-awaited Wimbledon triumph. But then, Evert and Navratilova will be there, too.
The Czech girl is an interesting combination of cockiness, surliness and good cheer, which is understandable in an Eastern European teen-ager who has to undergo at least one interview a day. She is built along the lines of a Pilsener keg and constantly has to watch her diet. At least one of the outfits she wore last week appeared to be two sizes too small.
" Billie Jean was chubbier at 18 than Martina," says a veteran player. " Billie Jean had big legs, big legs."