Chris Evert, the world's top-ranked woman's tennis player, will be topseeded when the eighth annual Virginia Slims of Washington tournament opens today at GWU's Smith Center. Evert is defending Champion.
The first two rounds and the quarterfinals will be held at Smith Center. The semifinals and final, Jan. 8-9, will be at Capital Center.
Evert, then 21, won more than $100,000 on the Slims circuit in 1976 and passed the $1 million mark in career earnings in only her fourth year as a pro. Joining her in the Slims of Washington, the first stop on the 12-city 1977 circuit, will be 31 other top pros.
The 11 Virginia Slims tournaments leading to the championship at New York's Madison Square Garden, March 24-27, will each offer $100,000 in prize money with $20,000 going to winner. The total purse for the circuit will be $1.25 million.
Top challengers to Evert here will be No. 2 seed Virginia Wade, a 6-2, 6-1, loser in the final last year; No. 3 seed Martina Navratilova, the 1975 Washington Slims Champion; No. 4 Betty Stove; No. 5 Sue Barker, the circuit's top rookie in 1976; No. 6 Mima Jausovec; No. 7 Francoise Durr, and No. 8 Greer Stevens.
Soviet tennis stars Olga Morozova and Natasha Chmyreva withdrew from the tourney because of a flu epidemic in Moscow. They were replaced by Laura DuPont, the national women's collegiate champion in 1970, and Mary Struthers, making her first appearance on the circuit.
It the seeded players advance, the top quarterfinal match will pit Evert against 20-year-old Barker.
Playing in her first Slims tourney in Houston last year, Barker met Evert in the quarterfinals and forced her to the limit before losing 7-6, 7-6.
Barker was also impressive here last year, beating three opponents, including Morozova, before meeting Evert, who prevailed, 6-4, 6-4. Barker went on to win several other titles last year and was ranked No. 6 in the world at season's end.
Wade, who handed Evert her fifth loss of the year in the Dewar Cup in London, is one of the steadiest players on the tour. The 31-year-old has compiled a 100-31 record since joining the circuit in 1972. Wade did not win a tournament in 1976 but reached the final round four times.
The 20-year-old Navratilova staged one of the most memorable feats in Slims history when she whipped Evert, Wade and Kerry Melville Reid en route to the title in 1975.
A pro-celebrity match (one set) pitting Wendy Overton and Sen. Lowell Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) against Val Ziegenfuss and Sen. Floyd Haskell (D-Colo.) will be played at 2 p.m. today. That will be followed by qualifying matches between Nancy Ornstein of Washington and Mariana Simionescu, and between Florentina Mihai and Indrid Bentzer, and by four first-round matches.