There will be no sentimental British victory at Wimbledon this year, no choruses of "For she's a jolly good fellow" sung to Virginia Wade by an adoring Centre Court crowd. Christ Evert, who lost her title to Wade in the semifinals last year, dethroned the queen of British tennis in the same round yesterday.
Evert, the champion of 1974 and 1976, won an intense first set from 1-3 down and went for the jugular early in the second to win, 8-6, 6-2. Her service returns and passing shots became increasingly menacing as Wade struggled unsucessfully to find the timeing on her serve in a swirling, frigid wind.
In tomorrow's final, Evert will play No. 2 seed Martina Navratilova. The expatriate Czech left-hander, now based in Dallas and awating U.S. citizenship, was in the third set of an absorbing battle with Evonne Goolagong Cawley when the 26-year-old Australian suffered a cramp in her injured left leg.
Goolagong was stricken as she lunged wide for the lob that gave her a 4-3 lead on serve in the final set. She shrieked in pain and froze. After a brief, confused, tearful interlude, she continued, but could only hobble through the final three nerve-wracking games, which were almost as painful to watch as they were for both women to play.
Navratilova, at once eager to put the match away and reluctant to exploit her graceful opponent's lack of mobility, finally won 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the fianl of the world's most prestigious tournament for the first time.
"I'm happy to be in the final, but unhappy about the way it happened," she said, expressing the ambivalent feelings most players have after a victory over an injured colleague.
"I know Evonne was in pain, but it was just as hard on me to keep playing.I felt sorry for her but Evonne is tough to beat even if she's in a wheelchair.
"Our Ginny," as the British call their regal 32-year-old tennis heroine, defeated Betty Stove, ending 15 years of frustration, in last year's final. It was a moving, unforgettable occasion. The normally restrained Centre Court crowd cheered and sang jubilantly as Wade received the champion's plate from Queen Elizabeth. All over England, there was rejoicing for Wade, who had never played better.
Yesterday it was different. Wade got only 38 of 80 first serves - 48 percent - in the court. Evert took advantage of that and dictated the pattern of play, running Wade around with hard, deep ground strokes, pinning her to the backcourt much more often then she would liked.
"Last year she had no pressure on her at all and was loose . . . This time I could look across the net and see the nervousness in her eyes. I think it showed in her tennis," Evert said.
Both started a little tentatively on a gloomly day so chilly that the 14,000 onlookers were huddling in overcoats and blankets. Wade held her serve after five deuces and three break points in the first game, Evert after three deuces and three break points in the second.
The first three games consumed 20 minutes. Evert list her serve in the fourth, double-faulting to 30-40 and netting a forehand. But Wade missed five of six first serves in the next game and was broken from 30-15, overhitting a nervous smash yards long after Evert had whacked a forehand down-the-line winner and a backhand cross-court passing shot to get to break point.
They went on serve to 6-6, playing some magnificient points on the grass made slow and soggy by days of intermittent rain. They probed and searched each other in animated rallies, and both made some remarkable "gets" but Wade was not able to chip short to Evert's backhand or press her relentlessly from the net as she did last year.
Evert, meanwhile, was spinning her first serve safely - she made 55 of 70 (77 percent) for the match - and getting the rythm on her ground game. She just kept tightening the screws, hitting out on the crucial points.
"I was thinking that if I could keep on going for my returns. and not let up, I was bound to break her serve before she broke mine. I had the confidence that my returns were getting better and better," said Evert.
With Wade serving at 6-6, 30-15, Evert hit one of a number of perfect lob winners. Then Wade crunched a good serve that Evert lunged for and floated back, Wade netting a backhand overhead off it at 30-40. A good return of a first serve left Wade vulnerable at the net, and after two midcourt low volleys. Evert whistled a cross-court backhand by her.
Evert served out the set and crankled three forcing returns to break for 2-1 in the second set.She broke again for 4-1, lost her serve, and broke again for the match in a game Wade started with her sixth double fault.
"I had a bad day serving. It's just one of those things, and when your serves goes off your rythm goes with it," Wade said. Her postmatch remarks were cryptic. It was evident she did not like being the ex-queen of Wimbledon.
Navratilova, 21, has won nine tournaments and 58 of 61 matches this year. An aggressive player who didn't want to revert to a past tendency to be too cautious in big matches, she was overanxious.
In the second set, she relaxed and became far more fluid. Her net play became more agile, her volleys more venonous.
Goolagong, who had three injections before the match to kill the pain of an inflamed Achilles' tendon that has bothered her for a month, was limping between points but running swiftly during play. She covered the court in the loping, light-footed strides that make her such an enchanting player, stroking the ball cleanly and effortlessly, answering Navratilova's attack with her own telling volleys.
Goolagong came back from 1-5 to 4-5, 0-15 on Navratilova's serve in the second before Navratilova put it away on her third set point, with a bold, deep second serve that Goolagong netted.
Goolagong lost her serve in the third game of the final set, but broke right back with a forehand down-the-line passing shot.
Navratilova seemed increasingly distraught about a pain in her left shoulder and cast some baleful glances toward her friend and business manager former pro golfer, Sandra Haynie, in the competitor's guest box.
Serving at 3-3, Goolagong sprinted wide, stretched to make a lob, and screamed. A cramp had seized her left calf. Navratilova, distracted, did not chase the ball, which fell in for the game. After going to Goolagong's side to see how she was, Navratilova lost an appeal to the umpire that the point should be replayed.
Goolagong was in tears, as she had been Tuesday when an adverse reaction to a cortisone injection seized her leg in the frist set against Virginia Ruzici in the quarterfinals. After receiving aid from her husband, in violation of the rules, Goolagong finished that match, winning, 7-5, 6-3, as a shaken Ruzici fell apart.
"I asked Evonne if she was okay, and she said "I don't think I can play," Navratilova said. "I was going bananas myself."
Goolagong was like a wounded gazelle. It was pathetic to watch her. She could not put weight on her left leg when she served. She could hardly run. But every now and then, she found a burst of speed and chased down a key shot. She saved two break points on her serve at 4-4 before double-faulting weakly and netting a backhand volley.
"I think Evonne would have quit only if she was physically unable to walk," said Rober Cawley, her husband.