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Indeed, Mandlikova tends to give Navratilova more trouble than anyone else. Mandlikova has won five of their 19 matches. Her most recent victory came in March at the U.S. Indoors, where Mandlikova prevailed 7-6, 6-0 and won her mink coat. Navratilova had not lost a love set since 1982. In their next meeting, at the Virginia Slims Championships in New York two weeks later, a pumped-up Navratilova won 7-6, 7-5. For sheer shotmaking, that match surpassed any in recent memory in women's tennis.
Mandlikova says she has made amends to Evert Lloyd. Nonetheless, she still feels that Evert Lloyd denigrates her abilities. Three months ago, Mandlikova beat Evert Lloyd in Oakland, but the win didn't bring Mandlikova the praise she wanted. "We've seen this tennis from her before," said Evert Lloyd. "She's not consistent. We'll see, because, as I say, she hasn't really done anything."
Mandlikova's voice rises when she recalls those words. "What bothers me about Evert," she says, "is that she doesn't appreciate anybody, never, ever, unless she knows they cannot beat her. Then she says all nice things. She knows I was better that day, but she would not say it. I respect very much that Evert is a hard worker and the toughest mentally on the circuit. But I think, there is something she is missing."
To Mandlikova's mind, candor is a quality generally missing in America. "Some people in this country, they talk to you nice and they are polite and they want you to say you like them," she says. "But I am not that way. If I am down, I am down. I just cannot cover. And that's what people want, especially in America. I think Martina learned that very well. Inside, she is the same personality that she was, but she can really cover herself now. But she loves America. She is American."
Even after five years of spending most of her time in this country, Mandlikova, a Czech citizen, is still very much the child of her father, Vilem Mandlik of Prague. Eleven times Mandlik was national sprint champion in Czechoslovakia (his best times were 10.2 in the 100 meters and 20.4 in the 200), and he represented his country in the '56 and '60 Olympics. Today he is a writer for a Czech automobile magazine. At 50, Mandlik has a pulse rate (53) that's only slightly higher than his age.
His resemblance to his daughter is marked: He has the same closely set features, a serious bearing and, Ginger Rogers may like to know, great legs. "When Hana does things that sometimes I don't like, I can't get angry," Mandlik says, "because I would do the same thing. It's very difficult. We are the same."
Mandlik saw very early that his daughter had "good legs, good movements" and set out to develop a "sports child." Wary of anabolic steroids, he decided against track. He chose tennis, a game he didn't play. By the time Hana was 8½, Mandlik had made a paddle for her out of wood. He bears a scar on his thumb from the project. He also drew a circle for her on the living room wall of the family home. When her mother, also named Hana, was out of the house, young Hana would move the furniture and hit a tennis ball into the circle.
Mandlik's connections in the Czech sports world helped get Hana the best coaches. But, she says, "My father didn't push. Once he got me started, it was me that wanted success very badly."
Sports quickly became her passion. She was always the fastest girl in school. She used to join her older brother, Vilda, in games of soccer, hockey, or whatever was in season. "I was hard to get rid of," she says. Today, sports—particularly skiing, golf and swimming—are still her favorite activities when she isn't playing tennis. And she still likes hanging around the guys. "I enjoy more the tournaments with men and women," she says. "I enjoy talking to Tim Mayotte, John [McEnroe] and Jimmy [Connors]. The "men know how to relax better. The girls take their feelings off the court too much."
Mandlikova says that she was never much for the strict Czech school system. Knowing her heart was not into school, her father would sometimes take her to work with him, although her mother didn't know it. She remembers defying teachers in class. "The other kids were always afraid of them, but I never was," she says. "When I thought the teachers were not fair, I just told them. The other kids thought I was crazy."