The black type of the record books will remind us that in September of 1978 Chris Evert won the U.S. Open women's tennis championship a fourth straight time. She did it yesterday, 7-5, 6-4 over Pam Shriver. Those who saw it will remember what the black type can't say. Pam Shriver had a picnic.
She is 16 years old, a high-school junior who was 11 when she first heard of this grand old lady, Chris Evert, now a tottering 23. Astonishingly, Shriver beat the tournament's No. 1 seed, Martina Navratilova, to become the youngest finalist in Open history. Then, yesterday, came Evert.
Though the outcome seemed inevitable - surely, Evert's precise groundstrokes and years of experience would be too much for a kid, no matter how precocious - even so, the match was mmemorable because Shriver brought to it not only her abundant gifts but unsuspected poise and daring.
"What a grand match," said her coach, on Candy, afterward. "How different for women's tennis, the way Pammer did it."
Shriver plays powerfully. Behind a big serve, she brings an aggressive net game. While Evert, the queen of clay, won 24 straight tournaments and 118 straight matches on the soft stuff by eternally batting groundstrokes from the baseline, Pam Shriver was learning a different game.
"And she may be greater in the end," Candy said. "She is 6 feet tall. So why not take advantage of her height and strength to serve big and move violently?"
She did that yesterday in the most important match of her life, before a crowd of 18,032 and a national television audience. Evert was the winner, equalling the four-straight record of Helen Jacobs in the mid '30s, but Shriver certainly was no loser.
"For Pammer, playing Navratilova was a picnic," Candy said. He meant that no one expected such a thing, so why not enjoy it? "And Chrissie was a picnic, too. Still, there came a time when you say, 'My God, this is no longer a picnic.'"
That's when a kid's thoughts turn from having fun to - gasp, cough, choke - winning.
Any idea that Shriver would dissolve in terminal trembles when confronted by perhaps the best woman player ever was quickly abandoned when Shriver held serve at 15 in the first game. Even then, the pattern was set for the match, with Shriver's crashing serve accounting for three of the points.
With the help of three Evert doublefaults, Shriver won the set's eight game for a 4-4 deadlock and then went one game up, 5-4.
At that point, Evert said, she was the nervous one.
"I was disgusted with those three double faults," she said. "When I get nervous, serving is the first thing that goes. But even at 5-4, I felt very confident. I didn't think there was any way I could lose."
On her serve, Evert evened it at 5-5 quickly, losing a single point and then, in the vital 11th game, the polish of the queen was too much for the promise of the young princess. That is to say, Evert outwitted Shriver.
Shriver's big serve consistently came wide to Evert's forehand, just as it had been consistently wide to Navratilova's left-handed backhand. Apparently, at 16, Shriver is content to boom them in one flight path, daring a return.
She should not dare Chris Evert. On her serve at 15-30, Shriver sent a missile to Evert's forehand. In anticipation, Evert had taken two steps in that direction during Shriver's toss. The old lady crushed a forehand return that bounced at Shriver's shoelaces, making it 15-40.
Evert won the game two serves later, again sneaking to the right for a forehand return that Shriver could not handled.
That made it 6-5 and Evert won the set on her serve, losing but one point. That decisive game was a beautiful demonstration of the Evert way. She won a point on a backhand lob to the baseline, another on a forehand crosscourt passing shot that hit the stripe, yet another on a backhand crosscourt pass.
I felt hungry to win," Evert said later. "When the chips were down, I went for passing shots and made them. I hit the lines."
Then she smiled. For three months this past winter, Evert took her first vacation from tennis. Navratilova rushed to fill the void, rising so far as to challenge Evert's long-accepted supremacy. They met in the Wimbledon final, Navratilova winning, and this Open was to be another test for Evert.
"I'm happy I could still hit the lines," Evert said with that smile saying sweetly that she is, still, the best.
Stan Smith-Bob Lutz def. Marty Riesson-Sherwood Stewart, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Hall of Fame Doubles
Fred Stolle-Dick Savitt def. Buchholtz-Fred Kovaloski, 6-4, 7-6.
Chris Evert def. Pam Shriver, 7-5, 6-4.