Evonne had to withdraw from Los Angeles because of her injuries, and, later, from Seattle because she came down with the flu and had a 103� fever. But between the two tournaments she and Navratilova finally confronted each other in the final at Chicago's International Amphitheatre. Martina won 6-7, 6-2, 6-2, but because Evonne was not yet back in top form it was not the decisive engagement that had been anticipated. Nevertheless, beating Goolagong was an important psychological victory for Martina, who had lost to her in their last five meetings.
Another big psychological stumbling block that Martina overcame was Billie Jean King, the idol of her youth, her companion in practice and her friend and partner in doubles. Circumstances, having mainly to do with Billie Jean's knee operations and convalescences, had prevented the two from playing each other since Martina joined the women's tour in 1974. Finally last fall, when King, as she said, "recycled" herself and won four tournaments, she also met and defeated Navratilova four times.
At Houston, the third Slims tournament of this year, they both reached the final, and there Martina won 1-6, 6-2, 6-2. King said afterward, "You only have so many moments in a match when you know you must make particular points. Martina played her particular moments better than I did. That's why she won."
Before the Detroit semifinals, when it looked as if King, not Fromholtz, might be Martina's opponent in the finals, Navratilova was asked how she felt about Billie Jean. She said, without malice, "I'm getting used to her. I don't feel I'm playing my idol anymore. I feel more on the same level with her."
It is just possible that Martina is not on the same level with anybody anymore. Roy Emerson, Martina's coach on the Boston Lobsters, said a year ago, "If she'll really work harder on her game, she could leave Evert behind."
Still, the more she wins, the more the pressure to keep winning builds. "Winning is a disease," Navratilova said before the final. "Once you win you want to keep winning. If you start losing you can't quit until you win again." Another day she had mused, "I can feel it in the locker room, pressure from people who want to break my string. Even when we play Rummy-O, I feel I should win."
Navratilova's relations with the press have improved almost as much as her tennis. There was a time when she made no attempt to hide her contempt for the inevitable dumb questions of a press conference. She is more tolerant now. Last week it was she who repeatedly reminded reporters that Evert was not around and that they should keep that fact in mind when evaluating her accomplishments. When she was asked if she felt she was No. 1 now, she replied, "I am No. 1 only if Chris is away. It takes a lot more than five tournaments to be No. 1. She'll be back soon, and then we'll see."
When Evert does return, she will find a Martina who is unchanged in that she will still howl in outrage at a bad line call, but who is a new person in that she can also win the next point. The old Martina used to howl and lose the next six points.
"I haven't been making unforced errors. That is the difference," continued she says. "Now when I get mad at myself I get on my case and I settle down. I want to win the next point."
A powerful influence in Martina's settling process has been her friend and business manager, Sandra Haynie, the 1974 Women's Open golf champion, who retired from the LPGA tour a couple of years ago to begin representing professional athletes. Her Pro Sports Management currently handles three women golfers and two tennis players. Haynie is 13 years older and that much wiser than her, star client, and Navratilova listens to her. According to all observers it is Haynie who persuaded Martina to control her emotions on the court. Herb Foster says, "Sandy sits near the court, and when there is a questionable line call Martina will look at her instead of at the umpire or the referee, and Sandy, with a small gesture, says, 'Cool it.' "