Actually, by her 25th year Billie Jean had won not only two Wimbledons and an Australian Open but the first of her four U.S. championships as well. However, Martina's argument is still valid. Billie Jean was only warming up at 25. Her best years and seven more Grand Slam singles championships were still to come. If Martina's best years do lie ahead, we are in for a treat. "It's possible that if she ever got the mental part together, she could be unbeatable," says Evert Lloyd. "If she does, I hope I'm not around."
But 25 is mid-life for a tennis player, and Martina has no more time to waste. She has created her crisis. The storm has hit. It is now or never.
It is an early spring day in Dallas. The trees are in first leaf, and the air is warm, soft and a little muggy. Martina and Nancy Lieberman, the out-of-work basketball player who is her friend, trainer, roommate and full-time cheerleader for the past year, are driving north on Interstate 75. They're heading for a shopping center where Lieberman is to spend an hour in a B. Dalton store autographing copies of her new book, Basketball My Way. The two are riding in Martina's silver Mercedes 450 SL with the top down, Lieberman at the wheel, her red hair and spirits flying. A station wagon pulls alongside, and two little yellow-haired girls lean out a window and shriek, "Hi, Martina!" Martina smiles and waves, although unenthusiastically. She's telling a story, and one of the drawbacks of being famous, she has found, is that one can't tell a story without being interrupted. She's in the process, she says, of trying to sell her Jeep, and the story has to do with why she owns a Jeep in the first place. She has to shout over the rush of the wind to be heard. "I bought it when I bought my condo in Palm Springs," says Martina. "I got it to ride around in the sand dunes. When I bought the condo, nothing was around it but sand. Then they built another golf course."
Nancy interrupts. "Tell the truth, Martina," she says, inserting the needle. Then, without a pause, Lieberman continues, "This is the truth. When Martina started earning a living and defected to America she said, 'I'm gonna buy one of everything.' And that's exactly what she did. When she moved to my house in Dallas last year and I started unpacking, I mean...God! There's nothing we don't have in our house and some things that we have two of."
"Shut up," mutters Martina, but she's laughing.
"We have a massage table," says Lieberman. "Something no home should be without. One day she said, 'Guess what I got.' I thought, 'Oh, no. I shudder to think.' She says, 'A massage table.' I said, 'Oh, good. I didn't know when we were going to get one.' Some people have a different pair of shoes for every day of the week. Martina has a car for every day of the week. She's finicky."
"I have an explanation for every one of those cars," says Martina.
At last count Martina owned seven cars—a Toyota Supra and a Pontiac J car, both of which she won in tournaments, a 733 BMW, the silver Mercedes, a Porsche 928, a 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and a white 1976 Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible, which is valued at $165,000 new.
"I didn't pay that," says Martina. "Used ones run between $50,000 and $100,000. It's a gorgeous car. I'm going to keep the Corniche."
"We're going to move into the Corniche," says Nancy, not about to let up. "It's going to be our place of residency."