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"That's hardly fair," sniffled Darling Carling, who'd be Carling Darling if she married Mets pitcher Ron Darling. Anyway, Bassett played the tournament with laryngitis and a cough, which, she explained, "only bothers me when I sleep because I can't sleep."
If ever there was a time and place Evert Lloyd was going to beat Navratilova, this U.S. Open was it. Chrissie had played a marvelous first set against her at Wimbledon, and Martina had been in a virtual slump (for her). She'd played a mediocre Open. Moreover, Evert Lloyd would be the underdog, own the crowd. And indeed, after Evert Lloyd played an exquisite first set, skidding fiat returns and passes as low as can be, the crowd was, to use her word, "deafening" for her. Martina later said it was "the hardest thing I've ever been through—all those people wanting me to lose."
In the second set, Navratilova was up a break at 4-3, but she played two loose points to fall behind 0-30 in the next game. Evert Lloyd now had her best chance to shake the champion's nerves, but she smacked a sitter of a backhand pass wide. In game 10, Evert Lloyd couldn't capitalize on double-breakpoint and the set was gone 6-4. As Chrissie's fans rudely applauded Navratilova's errors in the final set, she won the second and fourth games with aces, and in between got the key break at love. The 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win gave Navratilova her sixth Grand Slam title in a row. Once again the difference was her big serve on the big points. "Sometimes I think it's me, that I can't finish out the match," said Evert Lloyd. "Then I realize most of it's Martina." Would she go to Australia for one last stand against the Slam?
"Yes," Evert Lloyd said with a sigh, as if being asked to rake the leaves, "probably." Then, no finer tribute from one champion to another: "It's just not enough to play a good match against her anymore."
The closest thing to a new champion on the horizon may be the rugged, 19-year-old Cash, who beat the other pretender, Mats Wilander, at both Wimbledon and Flushing Meadow. Cash has the shots, the guts and the musical tastes (Def Leppard, Iron Maiden) to mesh perfectly with his heavy-metal persona. He also has the attitude. At last year's Open he threw a (covered) moon at an umpire, and last month he blatantly tanked at the Olympics. Afterward he blithely announced he had shown up in Los Angeles mainly to "get free tickets to the Games."
Having beaten Cash twice on grass, Lendl knew that Cash sometimes goes hours without driving his backhand. He flicks it but with little topspin, so the result is, said Lendl, "very flat, very strange." Cash also needs to learn how to put away a volley. Though terrifically quick and acrobatic at net, his first volley, especially off the forehand wing, is more of a push than a decisive punch. This inability to sting volleys cost him many key points in Lendl's dramatic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 semifinal victory.
After Cash won the first set, Lendl picked up his service percentage and rolled into the lead. At 6-5 in the fourth set, Cash had double set point, but he made four unforced errors, slugging out as always. In the tiebreaker he led 5-3, but was caught at 5-all. Cash then was presented a gift when Lendl practically whiffed on a setup forehand and then lofted a return 15 rows back in the stands. Suddenly, the match was even.
This back and forth, Czech-Cash transaction proceeded through the fifth set. Ever the gambler, Cash hit a huge hook on his second serve at 4-5, 30-all. It missed—match point for Lendl. However, Lendl netted a backhand. Cash held, broke for 6-5 and reached his own match point, but Lendl converted Cash's tentative short volley into a lunging lob to the baseline to save his neck. Lendl finally took control in the tiebreaker by winning the last four points. Immediately thereafter, Cash hurled his racket into the stands, earning a well-deserved $2,000 fine. If the racket had hit anyone Cash would have been out a lot more cash. Good thing he didn't try the javelin while loafing in L.A.
Among the consequences of the Saturday schedule was that the main-draw players never knew when they would go on, so they couldn't, as Navratilova put it, "gauge my stomach." Navratilova ate pasta late and then shared her bagels with Evert Lloyd. Just before the last match of the longest day, Kay McEnroe, the matriarch of the clan, was standing in the promenade aisle when actor David Keith (An Officer and a Gentleman, Lords of Discipline) approached. Keith is something of a jock groupie these days, shadowing Julius Erving, Mark Breland, McEnroe, et al.
"Gee, Mrs. McEnroe, I feel I know you," said Keith. "John's so great."