Miroslav and Jana Navratilova had promised their daughter Martina that if she reached the Wimbledon finals, they would drive the 80 miles from Prague to the West German border to watch the telecast of the match on a German station.
"I'm not sure how they'll find out," Martina said after she had won her semifinal match. "Since I defected three years ago there hasn't been a word about me in the Czech newspapers. Tomorrow they will probably say that Chris Evert is playing somebody in the Wimbledon finals. My parents will figure it out, or they will hear it on Voice of America."
What they have undoubtedly learned by now is that their daughter twice came from behind to beat Evert 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 to win, at 21, her first major singles title. Toward the end of the match, when the tension crackled around Centre Court, it was Navratilova who remained steady, who indeed played the way Evert is supposed to, while Chris herself came unstrung.
There was no clue in the first set that this would be any different from the familiar Evert scenario: an opponent begins well enough but is slowly ground to pulp by a relentless barrage of laser-beam shots that skim the net and find the corners of the court. From 2-2, Evert won four straight games to take the set, helped too often by Navratilova's errors, the kind players never seem to make except when they find themselves playing Chris.
So now it was time for Martina to leave quietly, for as recently as a year ago she had the reputation of cracking when pressured. Marvelous athlete, best in the business, but when losing she would pace about the court with a petulant look, as if some invisible demon were aiding the opponent, perhaps raising the net whenever Martina hit the ball.
But during the past year Navratilova has gained in confidence and maturity, helped in part by her permanent residence in the U.S. She also has benefited from the friendship and counsel of former pro golfer Sandra Haynie, who handles her business affairs and was cheering every point of the way at Wimbledon, especially in the second set of the final when Martina went right for Chris' throat, breaking her serve in the first game, and, when she had lost her own in the next game, breaking Chris again. This time Navratilova didn't let up. Her powerful first serve kept bailing her out whenever she needed it—"It was too much for me," Evert said later—and she won the second set 6-4.
So now who do you like? And if you say Navratilova, try this: at 3-2 Evert, Martina hit a lousy backhand into the bottom of the net. "Don't panic!" she yelled. But for the next three points it didn't matter what she did as Evert played her best tennis of the tournament, twice hitting low line-drive returns of serve for winners and winning a long rally. Martina's serve was broken at love, and it was 4-2 Evert.
But Martina broke right back and held serve to square the set. Evert, struggling now, held on to win her serve and take a 5-4 lead. Surely she would make Martina crack. Instead, shockingly, Navratilova won seven straight points, dropped one and then won five more in a row and went on to win the set and the match. In the end it was Chris who was hitting wildly, out of control. Martina was in command.
Later Navratilova wept and laughed. She said she was sad her parents were not there—she has not seen them since she defected—and said she would always be a Czech, no matter what her citizenship.
Navratilova encountered no real resistance during the early rounds, disposing of, among others, 15-year-old Tracy Austin. Both Tracy and Pam Shriver, who had just turned 16, charmed Wimbledon, Pam winning twice before losing to Sue Barker in a heartbreaker in which she had three match points. Tracy won three matches, but Martina blew her off the court 6-2, 6-3, taking the first four games with the loss of only two points. "One cannot think of Tracy as a child," Navratilova said. "If you do, she' will beat you." Which is what Tracy did earlier this year, ending Martina's 37-match winning streak.