Talk about a cat
with nine lives. If there is anything more remarkable than Martina Navratilova,
that grandest of tabbies, winning her record 99th match at the All England Club
and still another record ninth Wimbledon championship last week, it is the
identities of the women she didn't have to beat to reach those plateaus.
didn't play Chris Evert, NBC's own, although she did have to curtsy before her
old rival, who happened to be sitting in the Royal Box one day when Navratilova
strode onto the greensward. She didn't play Monica Seles, the hottest player in
the game, who had arrived in London with 32 straight match victories. She
didn't play Steffi Graf, the No. 1 player not only in the world but also in the
gutter of Fleet Street journalism—THIS TART IS RUINING MY GAME SAYS STEFFI,
screamed The Sun. And she didn't even have to play Helen Wills Moody Roark, who
couldn't be bothered to leave her Carmel, Calif., home and defend the record of
eight titles she shared with Navratilova.
Ms. Roark is
can't even comprehend one [ Wimbledon title]. That's amazing...unrealistic,"
said Zina Garrison, who pulled off a semi-amazing stunt of her own by upsetting
both Seles and Graf to reach the finals, where the newly industrious Lady Z was
finally put to rest, 6-4, 6-1, zzzzzz.
Roark might have been heavier traffic than some of Navratilova's early-round
patsies, among them Katerina Maleeva, who won two games in a match that lasted
barely the time it took to figure out which of the three Maleeva sisters
entered at Wimbledon she was, and Karin Kschwendt, who won another two games
before admitting, "It was so strange to see Martina live [rather than on
TV]. My heart was booming. I was maybe too impressed." Maybe.
Moreover, in the
last two rounds Navratilova had only to go through the motions against two
opponents—Gabriela Sabatini, who was experiencing her own tragedy (a former
boyfriend calling her "a fat duck," according to the ever-vigilant Sun)
and Garrison—against whom she now has a combined 41-4 career record. Even
Navratilova acknowledged it would have been "more fitting" if two-time
defending champion Graf, her tennis suddenly patchy, her thoughts obviously
scrambled over her father's alleged dalliance with a Playboy model, had joined
her in the final. But, said Navritilova, "I had prepared for Wimbledon. The
event overtakes any single person. I didn't care if I scraped and scratched to
get this. They don't put an asterisk next to your name saying you won but
didn't play that well." In fact, Navratilova played like a dream.
In contrast to
the men's competition, which proceeded rather predictably right down to the
third consecutive meeting in the finals between Boris Becker and Stefan
Edberg—Edberg winning 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4—the women's draw again provided
the more scintillating drama, both on and off the court.
But this should
now be expected when Edberg, who also beat Becker to win Wimbledon in 1988,
dominates a tournament. Edberg, an otherwise kind, pleasant fellow, evinces all
the personality of one of those "unattended packages" left about the
grounds that kept interrupting the All England matches.
think I'm playing worse than I did in '88," Edberg said early in the
tournament, which was his way of mounting a soapbox and screaming that he was
ready to win again.