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That is just the point. More than anything else, Gullikson is asking Fernandez to do what she does best: think. He has met with markedly less success at telling her what to think. Be cockier, he told her early in their relationship. Fernandez seemed to respect her opponents too much. Did she think Steffi Graf respected her opponents? Hell, no!—she expected to dispatch them in 50 minutes. Before one match last year, Gullikson got steamed at Fernandez because she refused to flat-out say, "I'm going to win this match."
"Graf and Seles go into tournaments expecting to win," says Gullikson. "Mary Joe hopes she'll win. She'd like very much to win, and when she wins, I think she's still a little bit surprised."
As Fernandez continued her ascent in the rankings—she began 1990 ranked 12th—the goose egg in her tournament-win column became more and more conspicuous, a kind of scarlet 0 she wore around the circuit.
The drought died hard. At the Tokyo Indoors last September, Fernandez, having risen to No. 8, won a courageous three-hour, come-from-behind semifinal victory over Maleeva-Fragniere. After the match, which was played in a stiflingly hot gymnasium, Fernandez had to be packed in ice because her muscles were cramping badly; a knot was forming in one of her abdominal muscles so severe that it was visible through her skin. "We could hear her screaming," recalls Dean Goldfine, her hitting partner, who was outside the trainers' room. "It was a little scary."
A little? Fernandez told Sylvia, who was standing nearby, "Mom, just start praying for me." Fernandez had never experienced such pain; she didn't know if she would survive. Finally, a Japanese doctor came to the rescue. His cure, as described by Fernandez: "He put herbs on me, then some kind of incense stuff, then he started doing some kind of pressure-point thing on my knee. And the cramps started going away!" Devout Catholics, the Fernandezes still believe Sylvia's prayers wrought a minor miracle.
The real miracle occurred the next day, when Fernandez took the court—stiffly—against Amy Frazier, fought off more cramps and won 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. "I dug really deep and found out something about myself," says Fernandez. She celebrated her maiden pro title by sleeping for 12 hours. Three weeks later, in Filderstadt, Germany, she won her second title, and she finished the year having won 40 of 50 singles matches and two tournaments. "She's on a great roll right now," says Gullikson. "The idea is to keep that momentum alive."
Question: Will Gullikson be around to nurture it? At an exhibition in Essen, Germany, 12 days before the Filderstadt tournament, Fernandez's career took an unexpected twist. The exhibition was sponsored by Ion Tiriac, the scowling tennis maven from Romania and, incidentally, an old acquaintance of Jose's. It was in Essen that Jose and Tiriac laid the groundwork for Mary Joe's recent agreement to be represented by Tiriac's T-V Enterprises.
The move stunned Fernandez's former agency, the mammoth International Management Group. She had already switched agents within IMG, from John Evert to Gavin Forbes, after the Fernandezes complained that Evert was so absorbed with lining up Capriati's $5 million endorsement windfall that he had no time for Mary Joe. Evert is also said to have annoyed the Fernandezes by telling them on more than one occasion, "We've got this product lined up, but they want Jennifer." Forbes and Mary Joe had a much better relationship.
"IMG very good company," says Jose, a native of Oviedo, Spain, whose 20-plus years in the States have not made any appreciable dent in his accent. "Also very beeeeg. Much more impersonal." Tiriac's only other major client is Boris Becker. Though Mary Joe will play second fiddle, the Fernandezes figure that at least she'll be one of only two fiddles.
By arrangement, Tiriac will not limit his attentions to Fernandez's endorsements. He has definite ideas about her tennis, too, which could mean that Gullikson is on the way out. Alarmed by her chronic injuries, Tiriac has already set up a meeting between Fernandez and renowned British strength-and-conditioning coach Frank Dick.