- THEY SAID ITMay 28, 1962
- In FactIan Thomsen | October 30, 2000
- FACES IN THE CROWDJuly 31, 1989
The 6-foot Shriver used to call Austin "that little twerp," and then die like a dog in their matches. This time—"playing with my brain, not my mouth," Shriver said—Pam pounded her big serve and attacked Austin's lollipop deliveries with chip returns. Time and again Austin missed her hole card, the backhand pass. She was slow getting to the ball and not connecting solidly. She looked nervous but she called it "complacency." On one changeover Austin filed her nails.
After prevailing 7-5, 6-4, Shriver said, "This was a perfect match if I ever had it. Now we'll see if I can put together two in a row." Because she couldn't—Evert Lloyd won their semifinal 6-3, 6-1 without smearing her eye shadow—it was left to the Mandlikova-Navratilova headband championship of Czechoslovakia to determine a worthy opponent for Chris.
The stately, beguiling Mandlikova is obviously the next mega-star of women's sports. No less an authority than Ginger Rogers, a Wimbledon spectator, said Mandlikova has "the most beautiful legs I've ever seen." Yet in this match she was made to appear unattractive by both the nature and the pace of play. Rallies? Two or three shots, max. It was all groaning serve-and-volley stuff with both women rushing along—Mandlikova-Navratilova, red rova-hurryonova—as if they had 24 seconds to shoot.
Navratilova had been wrestling with an errant toss all tournament, and finally, in the third set, her first serve fell apart. In Game 4 a careless volley gave her opponent break point, and Mandlikova cashed in with a backhand return winner off a second serve. Leading 3-1, 30—all, Mandlikova footfaulted. She asked the linesman, left or right foot? He said back foot. "I don't understand," Mandlikova said later. "I don't have back foot." But she had spunk. After the ruling she won 11 of the last 13 points to close out the match 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.
Ralston was so impressed with Evert Lloyd's warmup the morning of the final he said if Mandlikova wasn't at her best the match would be a "slaughter." As nervous as Evert Lloyd was, she knew Mandlikova would be a "wreck." In the changing room Mandlikova asked Evert Lloyd about a picture on the wall. It was a shot of Mo Connolly. Mandlikova said she had never heard of her. Evert Lloyd thought, "My God, this girl is young."
And not yet ready. Mandlikova's plan was simple: Bring Evert Lloyd in with drop shots and then lob or pass. In the second game three drops earned Mandlikova two break points, but she was wide with a backhand on one and Evert Lloyd passed her on the other. In the next game Mandlikova double-faulted three times, and that turned out to be the ball game.
Mixing speeds on delivery and converting 41 of 51 first serves, Evert Lloyd kept Mandlikova off-balance. Often Chris had only to wait for Hana to embarrass herself. Set 1, Game 8: She twice hit wide of the doubles alley and then dumped a drop shot at her own service line to fall behind 6-2. Set 2, Game 5: Mandlikova double-faulted twice and bunted another horrendous drop outside the alley. At the end of the 6-2, 6-2 rout Mandlikova said, "I sink I should be nervous here first time in final."
While that's true, talent alone never wins Wimbledon. Head, guts, mental toughness, determination, they all count. Nobody was going to take this title from Evert Lloyd. "When I'm determined," she said, "I'm still the best."
Just as she wavered on court, Mandlikova struggled to describe what the new champion symbolized for her. "I sink," she began in her delightfully fractured English, "Chris is the most toughest, difficult to play.... I sink most nicest. For all players...I sink she is best we never had in the world."
Nobody in the whole world would call McEnroe the most nicest male. But the most toughest? Last week he was.