Growing up in Czechoslovakia, Martina Navrotilova never heard the expression "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." But that is exactly the way she plays tennis, and today she won her second consecutive Wimbledon singles title by adapting the same basic philosophy to playing arch rival Chris Evert: "Damn the passing shots, full speed to the net."
Navrotilova, the strongest and most athletic of current women tennis players, used her oppressuve left-handed serve and spectacularly powerful volleys to overwheld Evert, 6-4, 6-4. in a one-hour final on the Centre Court of the All England Lawn Tennis and Crocquet Club.
Calm, self-controlled and confident on the fast, dry grass that is the ideal surface for her aggressive game, the 22-year-old expatriate Czech took a 5-2 lad in both sets, then missed a flock of first severes, enabling Evert to counterattack and break back to 4-5.
But Navratilova promptly and decisively reaserted her aggressive instincts. Getting to the net behind deep, sliced approach shots low to Evert's two-fisted backhand, she dared the steadier but less powerful Floridian to pass her.
On this day, Evert wasn't up to the challenge. If Evert didn't net her passing shots, Navratilova was repeatedly there to drill decisive volleys of gobble up too-shallow lobs.
The last two points of the match captured its essence perfectly.
With the crowd of 15,000 sun-drenched spectators urging Evert to continue her gallant comeback from 2-5 down and take the match into a third set, Navratoliva decided she would win or lose where she is most at home: the net.
As Evert served at 4-5, 30-all, Navratoliva walloped a forehand approach and swooped in. Evert netted a hurried forehand.
Now it was 30-40, match point. Evert took a deep breath, then put in a first serve. Navratilova sliced her backhand return to Evert's forehand corner and came racing in again, as if on a second serve. Evert tried to pass her down-the-line, but the ball was well long.
Two weeks ago, when Evert beat Navratilova, 7-5, 5-7, 13-11, in the superlative three-hour final of a grass court tune-up tournament at Eastborne, England, Navratilova had three match points, and did not come to the net on them.
"That was the only reason I lost there, because I stayed back on the match points," she recalled. "I said to myself then, 'if I get to the same stage again, just come in and make her hit the shot, because the odds are with me that she won't make the passing shot good enough that I can't hit a volley off it.'
"I said that after the Match at Eastbourne, and then I really wasn't thinking about it until match point. Then right before she served, all of a sudden I thought: 'You've got to go in." First serve, second serve, I don't care. So I just chipped the return and got in."
Having overhit her forehand, Evert froze momentarily in the back court, as if stunned that the match for which she had prepared herself so long and so well, and thought she would win, was over so suddenly.
Navratilova raised both arms over her head in a gesture of truimph mingled with relief that she had not let the match slip away, as she might have in years past.
She turned to the competitors' guest box, where her mother -- whom she had not seen until last week since she defected to the United States in September 1975 -- jumped to her feet, burst into tears, and hugged one of her daughter's friends.
Navratilova was composed, but her mother Jana Navratilove wept openly as her daughter accepted the gleaming gold plate that symbolizes supremacy in the oldest and most prestigious of tennis tournaments, than the $38,000 first prize.
The Wimbledon trophy presentations are among the most moving moments in sports -- stately, dignified, touching in their simple pageantry.
The ballboys, dressed in the nauve-and-green colors of the All England Club, line up on their side of a green carpet, that leads to the court and table draped with a Union Jack, on which the trophy tests.
The Duke and Dushess of Kent drsend from the royal box, through the corridor of ballboys, stopping to chat briefly with the thrilled youngsters. Then to the table, where first the champion and then the runner-up are called forward, curtsy and receive their trophies.
Navratilova, who had battled a cold and her own fitful form through several tough early round matches before finding herself in a semifinal victory over 16-year-old Tracy Austin, came on court today looking as if she expected to win.
She held her serve in the first game with the first of many firm backhand volley winners, then broke Evert in the second game.
The pattern of the match was starting to emerge as Navratilova chipped a backhand return of a first serve and went to the net for a backhand volley winner to get to 0-30, and sliced a forcing backhand approach to Evert's backhand corner for 15-40. Evert, who looked tight, knocked an overanxious forehand long for the break, and Navratilova held at love to 3-0.
"I was ready to play, and I saw that Chris was nervous, so I was trying to get on top of her," Navratilova said.
"I knew I had to go for my shots, and winning my first serve gave me confidence because I had been losing it consistently throughout the tournament. Whrn I won the toss, I was thinking maybe I should receive. But then I thought, "No, you've got to go for it.' That's what I've done all my life. I've never chosen to receive before.
"From then on, I was really calm. Even when I lost my serve at 5-3 in both sets, I didn't get rattled, because I knew I could break her."
Navratilova's first serves, deep and wide, regularly jerked Evert out of position, opening up the court for the volleys she hits more gloriously than any other woman. Her second serves were weak, and she stayed back on them, but when she got away from the baseline and into the forecourt, she was unbeatable.
When she served for the first set of 5-2, Navratilova missed three of four first serves, and double faulted to lose her serve at love.
But she broke Evert again in the next game. Evert picked up her head and netted a forehand half-volley off a softly angled backhand cross court for 15-40, and Navraatilova chipped a deep backhand volley that died like a drop shot for the set.
Navratilova missed five of six first serves when she served for the match at 5-2, and was broken at 30 when Evert rocketed a backhad down-the-line pass of a deep backhand approach.
But again Navratilova broke right back in the next game to seal the match, unflinchingly coming in on those key last two points.
"I never felt confident because she was always dictating the match, playing aggressively," Evert said. "Again it came back to the same old thing: This court suits her better . . . on grass courts, I have to struggle more and all she has to do is get her first serve in or slide a backhand into the corner, and come in.
"The ball doesn't come up the way it does on a cement or clay court. She slices her backhand, and that creates problems for any two-hadnded player. She played Tracy [Austin] the right way and me the right way, keeping the ball low to out backhands."
Navratilova did not think she served as well as she did against Evert in last year's final, when she came back from 2-4 down in the final set to beat the champion of 1974 and 1976, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. But Evert thought Navratilova served better today.
"I think the difference in the match was that she got her first serve in. I think I would have beaten her if she had missed more first serves, but she placed them well and had me on the defensive the whole time," said Evert, now a three-time runner-up.
"I never felt in the match . . . Her serve is just too tough. The spins and andles of a left-handed served are completely different from a right-handed serve, and when she gets it in, it's very tough to break her.
"I think as far as strength and her game are concerned, Martina's the closest thing to a male tennis player. I don't meam that negatively, but she has a game very similiar to the men players. She serves and volleys and plays very aggressively and she's so strong," Evert said.
"Emotionally, she's much more stable than she used to do with her private life, her defection. You can tell by the way she talks and the way she plays that she's very, very confident in her tennis ability, and that has come from winning." CAPTION: Picture 1, Martina Navratilova defeats Chris Evert for Wimbledon Trophy, AP; Picture 2, Martina Navratilova rushed across court for return . . . AP; Picture 3, . . . and Chris Evert hits forehand in 6-4, 6-4 loss in Wimbledon singles final. UPI