The Centenary Wimbledon championships, which have inspired so much thought and talk of the past, today offered a first meeting between the present and the future.
Chris Evert, the No. 1 woman player in the world at age 22, demolished Tracy Austin, 14, the youngest player ever in this tournament, 6-1, 6-1.
It was an enthralling occasion, not so much for the match, which Evert won in 49 minutes, but for the ironies and psychology of the situation, the inevitable comparisons between Austin today and Evert at sweet 16.
And it was memorable as the first glimpse most of the 14,000 spectators crowded around the legendary center court at the All-England club have had of Austin, the 5-foot, 90-pound prodigy from Rolling Hills, Calif.
There are so many similarities that someone remarked during the first game, "Chrissie must think she's playing herself."
Austin, unlike the emerging Evert 1970-71, is not afraid to go to the net, but the foundation of her game is her groundstrokes. They are solid and forceful, especially the two-fisted backhand. She can drop shot. And she looks exceptionally cool, posed, composed.
But then again, maybe at age 14 she simply doesn't know better. "I think I was nervous just to go on center court the first time, but I wasn't nervous when I was playing," she said. Did she feel lonely? "No, I knew everybody was there (father George, Mother Jeanne, older sister Pam, and coach Bob Larsdorp, all in the competitors' guest box). But it's big."
Afterward, Evert gave the most reasonable assessment of Austin's potential: "I don't think you can tell this early if she's going to be No. 1. She's really remarkable for a 14-year-old girl."
Meanwhile, Ilie Nastase, on his best behavious, and Dick Stockton, approaching his top form, convincing advanced to the round of 16 in the men's competition.
Nastase, the mercurial Romanian who was accused of stalling tactics in his second-round match against Andrew Pattison, beat Eliot Teltscher of Palos Verdes, Calif., 6-4, 6-3, 6-1.
Crowds flocked to the outside court hoping to see some more fireworks from the sixth-seeded Nastase but they were disappointed. Tennis' bad boy stuck to his game and kept the antics to a minimum.
The ninth-seeded Stockton played his best tennis of the tournament in beating Fred McNair of Chevy Chase, Md., 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Stan Smith, the 1972 champion who is on the comeback trail, needed three hours on center court to get past Onny Parun, 6-3, 5-7, 9-3, 7-5.
The biggest upset of the morning matches came in men's doubles, in which Brian Gottfried and Raul Ramirez, the defending champions and top seeds, were eliminated by the unheralded pair of Jim Delaney of Potomac, Md., and Sashi Menon, 3-6, 7-5, 6-8, 6-2, 6-3.
The match began Thursday night and was halted because of darkness with Gottfried and Ramirez leading, two sets to one.
But when play resumed this morning on an outside court, Delaney and Menon took control and ousted the world's top-ranked doubles team.
As for today's Evert-Austin match, it was fun while it lasted.
A gang of more than 30 photographers greeted the players as they strode onto the center court, looking like big and little sister.
Austin looked 14, with her blonde hair in pigtails and teeth in braces. She wore a pinafore with powder blue yoke and sash and matching kangaroo pocket in which she stored the second ball when she served. Like all her tennis frocks, it looked much too large.
When Evert heared the applause for Austin before the match, she decided to forget who she was playing and treat this match as any other, getting it over with as quickly as possible.
Evert had not looked forward to this. She didn't like the idea. It reminded her of the U.S. Open in 1971 when she entered the public consciousness by reaching the semifinals at 16. Suddenly she appreciated how Mary Ann Eisel, Francoise Durr and Lesley Hunt had felt losing to her in the stadium at Forest Hills, with the crowd going wild for "Little Chrissie."
"Listen, it's very intimidating to everybody to play someone so young," she said Thursday. "Now I know how they all felt, how Billie Jean King must have felt playing me in the semis at Forest Hills that year.
"I think this was the toughest match for me, psychologically. Even playing Billie Jean (as she will if King beats Marise Kruger and Evert beats Greer Stevens Saturday) would be a piece of cake, emotionally, after shis. Physically, it's going to be a lot tougher. I have a lot of respect for her game. But mentally, I've played her 20 times and I know what to expect."
Against Austin, Evert said she was "very nervous, and when I'm nervous I don't move as well and my serve is the first thing to go. Sure enough, I started out slow."
But as soon as Austin won that first game, it all clicked in Evert's mind: "As soon as I heard the crowd cheering for Tacy, I got a little more excited about the match, and I wanted to win very badly at that point," she said. "I took everything nice and slow. I didn't rush. I didn't let anything bothered me. The only thing that had bothered me was myself, the emotions that were going on in my head."
Evert settled down and gave Austin a tactical lesson. She didn't lose another game until, she was ahead, 3-0, in the second set.