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Navratilova, who defeated Chris Evert Lloyd 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in the ladies final, was a much bigger winner than Connors. She now has won 54 of 55 matches this year, and she's halfway—with the harder half behind her—to becoming only the third woman to win the Grand Slam. Mo Connolly and Margaret Court did it in 1953 and '70, respectively. Not only that, Navratilova is also three quarters of the way to winning another, newly minted Slam known as the Playtex Challenge. What's that? (Sounds of Ed McMahon guffawing on the couch.) It's the winning of four designated tournaments—U.S. Indoors, Family Circle Cup, Wimbledon and U.S. Open—and it's worth $1 million. For winning the first three, Navratilova received $500,000. That, plus Wimbledon's $67,000 first-place check, gave her nearly $1 million in prize money for 1982, and she's well on her way to winning more money in one year than any athlete in history.
More important was the impressive-ness of her Wimbledon victory. The men's field was depleted: among the no-shows were Ivan Lendl (allergic to grass, he says); the noted non-qualifier, Bjorn Borg; and two Argentines who were loath to play on British soil and, especially, British grass, Guillermo Vilas and Jose-Luis Clerc. However, all the best women were enrolled in The Championships. On one thrilling day early in the final week, Evert Lloyd, Andrea Jaeger, Pam Shriver, Wendy Turnbull and Sylvia Hanika were all a set down to lower-ranked players, and of the lot, only Evert Lloyd escaped. By contrast, in the men's semis, the overmatched losers, Tim Mayotte and Mark Edmondson, between them could win only 14 games in six sets of tedium.
Navratilova cemented her claim to preeminence with her triumph over Evert Lloyd. No one knew better than Navratilova the meaning of the victory. And no one laughed louder or more joyously than she, when, after the match, back at her rented house a few blocks from the courts, her friends stormed into her bathroom and poured cold champagne all over her as she lay soaking in the tub.
It was different now. When Martina won her first two Wimbledons, in '78 and '79, her life was unsettled, her spirits frayed. "I reached the top. I got there," she says. "Then I was so disillusioned. I thought it had to be such a big deal, and nothing happened."
Navratilova's emotional safari back to glory was guided by her coach, Renee Richards, and her trainer and housemate, Nancy Lieberman, the basketball star, and her victory was efficient in plan, nearly relentless in execution. Yet nothing with Navratilova is ever certain, and it was a curious final she and Evert Lloyd played, one most resembling the squiggly lines on the chart that reflected the unsettled English weather during the Fortnight. Surely, too, the forecast was all wrong. Navratilova, the archetypal net rusher, dashed through the first set in 22 minutes, but scored often from the back-court, scampering about, nailing winners on the run. Meanwhile, the ever reliable and confident Evert Lloyd sprayed shots hither and yon and hoped only, as she would say later, "not to be humiliated."
But Navratilova has a tendency to start slugging—which plays right into a baseliner's strength—when she gets ahead. Also, never forget that the greatest myth in tennis is that Evert Lloyd's game isn't suited to grass. This was her 17th Grand Slam tournament on the turf. She had reached the finals in 10 and merely made the semis in the seven others. In the second set her shots began to sting, and she began to take the net herself, pressuring Navratilova's weak backhand. On offense, Navratilova started missing her approaches, and after botching a couple of overheads, she began glancing nervously to the stands, toward where Richards—the erstwhile ophthalmologist was furiously scribbling new strategic prescriptions—and Lieberman sat. By the end of the set, the first one she had lost in the tournament, Navratilova was in disarray. She barely eked out her first service game of the final set and was cleanly broken next time to trail 2-1.
Evert Lloyd had the lead for the first time in the match, and she was also buoyed by another thought, which she later delicately phrased this way: "I thought maybe Martina would crack under pressure." Three times in the past year, in major-championship finals, Navratilova had won the first set in crushing fashion, only to fold like a dollar suitcase. Now she looked back up at Richards and Lieberman for support. Lieberman, often so effusive, only smiled. "That did the trick," said Navratilova afterward. She broke Evert Lloyd right back, at 30, and then held for a 3-2 lead.
However, Evert Lloyd stiffened. She cut 40-15 out of sturdy cloth, and it began to look like a taut, drawn-out fight to the finish. Instead, how strange it would be. How very sudden. "On grass, you must work constantly on keeping your feet moving, because the ball comes off erratically," Evert Lloyd had said only a couple of days earlier. Now, when a ball skidded a bit into her forehand, she was caught flat-footed and she rapped the shot limply into the net: 40-30. The next return from Navratilova was surprisingly soft. Evert Lloyd's feet were still rooted. She rushed only the racket, and the ball drifted off it low into the tramlines. Deuce. Navratilova then made two good forcing shots that Evert Lloyd could barely fuss with, and it was 4-2.
Quickly then, there was a last gasp. Evert Lloyd went up 30-15 on Navratilova's serve, but abruptly Martina began to serve and volley as of yore and won three dashing points: 5-2. The jig was up. Another break at love: game, set, match, championship. Navratilova stretched her arms high in exultation seven minutes after Evert Lloyd had led 3-2, 40-15.
"The more you work for something, the more you want it," said Navratilova later. "The arrogant, cocky person people saw was a distorted image, but I put it up myself for defensive reasons. I'm all right now. I don't need traumas to drive me anymore. I'm settled now. And it'll stay all right, because when you know what it's like, you know what to expect. I'll like it better this time. And I'll be better for it, too." She was dressed now, ready to go cut for her victory party, but here was someone still with champagne in her hair.