Kathy May did not succumb to the temptation, as so many players do, of going on court against Christ Evert thinking not "win" but "just make the score respectable." She didn't win, but at least she did make the score respectable.
"When I first heard last week that I had to play Chris, that's what I thought. But then everybody told me, 'Think postive, what have you got to lose?'" May said last night after Evert beat her, 6-4, 6-3, in the first round of $100,000 Virginia Slims of Washington tennis tournament at George Washington University's Smith Center.
"By the time I got out there," continued May, a 20-year-old department store heiress from Beverly Hills who is coached by U.S. Davis Cup captain Tony Trabert, "I wasn't ever nervous."
May looked remarkably composed at the outset of her first match ever against the No. 1 player in the world and defending champion here. She won the first five points, but never could give Evert any truly anxious moments in a 54-minute match that was less than inspiring for the crowd of $3,500.
The match was closer than anyone except possibly May herself, thinking like Norman Vincent Pearle, anticipated it would be . . . and that was typical of the eight singles matches that began at 11 a.m. and wound on for 10 hours.
A couple of years ago, first-round matches in the Slims were always lopsided, with lots of 'love and one' scores," noted veteran tour referee Mike Blanchard. "Not any more. There are some tough, hungary young players in women's tennis."
There were some fierce battles as Janet Newberry, Greer Stevens, Wendy Overton, Francoise Durr, Sue Barker, Wendy Turnbull, and Ingrid Bentzer moved into the second round of the 32-woman tournament, which continues on the GW campus through Friday before shifting to Capital Centre for the final two rounds on the weekend.
Still, though the depth in women's tennis has undeniable increased, the gap between Everet and the rest has not lessened. It has been agnified now that Billie Jean King and Margaret Court have pretty much retired, and Everet's arch-rival Evonne Goolaong is on maternity leave.
Evert realizes this. "I think there's more pressure on me because with Billie Jean and Evonne not playing, everybody expects me to win every matche," said the Floridian, who crossed the $1 million mark in prize winnings before turning 22 a couple of weeks ago. "If I lose, it's going to be a major upset.
"But a lot of the girls are underestimated, like Kathy. Those scores were pretty close - 6-4, 6-2 . . ."
"Six-four, six-three!" interjected May quickly, reacting to the missing game as if her most prized piece of jewelry had been pickpocketed.
Evert embarrassed, apologized for her mistake and then continued: "Everybody's getting tougher . . . I was loose, maybe too loose.
"Last year I was a nervous wreck every match because I was the No. 1 seed, all the pressure was on me. For the New Year, I said I wasn't going to let it get to me this season. I had a month off, spent Christmas with my family and didn't think about tennis, so I wanted a tough match to get back into it. I want to get a little better with each match this week."
Evert's groundstrokes, which sustain a bear, were not at their sharpest, but they were consistently deeper and more accurate than May's.
The young Californian - the top-ranked junior girl in the U.S. in 1973-75, and winner of the U.S. Clay Courts last summer, largely because most of the top women were otherwise engaged playing World Team Tennis - plays a style similar to Evert's, but not as proficiently. Her two-fisted bachand does not have the bite and accuracy, and neither her strokes nor her match play are as finely honed as Everet's . . . But then again, whose are?
"Maybe I should have come in a little more," added May, but that was likely just wishful thinking. Net-rushing is not her game, and those who come in rashly against Evert are destined to be passed as certainly as a footabll is when Frank Tarkenton is around.
May was broken in the third game of the first set, double-faulting to 30-40 and then sailing a backhand. She had only one break point against Evert, in the eighth game, after Evert had double-faulted twice.