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The storm passed over Paris Saturday morning, leaving the streets wet and the winds swirling around Court Central at Roland Garros. These were the same sort of gusts that had blown up the red clay all week, leaving the players' socks sienna while their shoes stayed white; the kind of gusts that had, the day before, helped drive John McEnroe to distraction and out of the French Open. The semifinal defeats of McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, the last U.S. male survivors, extended to three decades the frustration American men have known in Paris.
Pam Shriver, Martina Navratilova's doubles partner, woke up and looked out her hotel window. The next day she and the world's No. 1 woman player would try to win their eighth straight Grand Slam doubles title and their 99th match in a row. Today, however, Navratilova would play her shadow, Chris Evert Lloyd, in the singles final, another milestone in what has become the most extraordinary rivalry of modern sport. Starting in Akron in 1973, they have met 64 times, and on this morning Navratilova leads 33-31, having won 15 of their last 16 matches. Shriver notices that the day is breezy. "Chris has a chance today," she says to herself.
Dennis Ralston, Evert Lloyd's coach, comes to Roland Garros with his charge. "Look, Chris, you can't worry that this might be your last French," he says. "Just go out and have fun, and don't be afraid to make mistakes." By twilight on the morrow, Shriver and Navratilova will have won again in doubles, and Mats Wilander will have won the men's crown by defeating defending champion Ivan Lendl. But what Evert Lloyd and Navratilova do will, at least for the moment, have a far greater impact. For the first time since the Musketeers took the mantle of French tennis from Suzanne Lenglen almost 60 years ago—Roland Garros was built for them—the place belongs to the ladies.
In almost three hours of cliff-hanging, Evert Lloyd wins 6-3, 6-7, 7-5. The two Yankettes play the best of their 65 matches—better than the Wimbledons of '76 and '78, the Australian of '81, last September's U.S. Open—and give the French something to treasure as well. And that's only fair. The French Open was played just as that much-heralded first wave of Americans descended upon Europe for this summer of '85, ogling the bare-breasted sunbathers along the Seine, jamming the restaurants and the museums and the shops.
However, Roland Garros remained all but unspoiled by the tourists. Country club Americans in London must have Wimbledon tickets. Must. But while the French Open set yet another attendance record this year—up more than 600% since 1972, with scalping and counterfeiting and all the other accoutrements of success—the tournament remains a Parisian fancy. "C'est too much," say the young French. With the tournament on national TV for hours every day, the whole country chose sides and watched when Frenchmen Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte met in the round of 16.
"What did you think?" French journalists breathlessly asked Lendl.
"I saw one set and went to sleep," he said condescendingly of Leconte's victory.
Before the two dowager queens captured the fans' fancy, the French Open belonged to yet another female. A girl. They discovered Gaby, and they loved her. Gaby est too much. During her semifinal match, they even booed the officials who dared make line calls against her. That forced her opponent, the venerable Mme. Evert Lloyd, to recall the same sort of salad afternoon in New York 14 years ago when she first appeared on the scene—as fresh and fetching as Gaby—and the crowds so cheered for her that her opponent was driven to tears right upon the court.
Gaby is Gabriela Sabatini of Buenos Aires—from a land, from a whole continent, that tolerates women playing sweaty games even less than Gaul does. After Maria Bueno, who has there been? Last year, at 14, Gaby was already junior champion of the world. Her dark eyes dazzle, her dark hair shines, and in her high boy's socks and pleated skirts, she knows exactly where athleticism meets femininity. Already she has been on seven magazine covers in Argentina. She agrees with her coach, Patricio Apey, when she hears him describe her as "an original."
Gaby has quit school and moved to a house Apey runs for young girl players in Key Biscayne, Fla. Though she understands English, she's too much the perfectionist to venture it until she can be faultless.