As the snow fell yesterday, forcing postponement of the semifinal matches in the $250,000 Colgate Series Championship from last night to this afternoon at Capital Centre, Chris Evert Lloyd made her way from Georgetown to the Landover arena and practiced for an hour in preparation for her rematch against Tracy Austin.
In Today's opening match at 3 p.m., Martina Navratilova will play Wendy Turnbull, who advanced to the semis when Evonne Goolagong Cawley withdrew from the tournament Friday because of a sprained hand.
Evert Lloyd will then play the 17-year-old Austin, the new ice maiden of women's tennis, for the second time in four days, a quirk of the draw resulting from Goolagong's default.
The winners of today's matches will meet for the $75,000 first prize Monday evening, following a third-place match at 7 p.m.
Austin, who is so similar to Evert Lloyd in competitive temperament and pack-court style that she could be a clone, dominated their first match of the new year, 6-1, 6-3. Evert Lloyd thinks she will provide more resistance this time.
"I think I'm better prepared now," she said. "I know what to expect from her. I consider this a second chance, and I think it's to my advantage that I'm getting another crack at her," Evert Loyd said yesterday after her workout on the fast "Sporteze" carpet at Capital Centre.
"I really doubt that Tracy will play as well as she did on Thursday, and hopefully I learned something. I can't think any negative thoughts.I've got to consider myself fortunate to have another chance."
Austin admits that she had doubts about her ability to beat the player she most admired until she did so for the first time, in the Avon Championships at Madison Square Garden last March. Since then, she has won four of six over Evert Lloyd, including their last three meetings.
It was Austin who ended Evert Lloyd's remarkable six-year, 125-match clay court winning streak in the semifinals of the Italian Open last May, and foiled her bid for a record fifth successive U.S. Open title in the final at Flushing Meadow, N.Y., in September. Evert Lloyd has not won a set in their last three clashes.
"Tracy's got Chris' number, and it's all psychological," suggested Billie Jean King after Thursday's match here. "Chris has never had to contend with anybody who plays the same style she does. She grew up playing Margaret Court and me and Evonne, who all go to the net, and she won all those titles (two Wimbledons, three French Opens, four U.S. Opens among them) by counterpunching.
"Now she finds somebody who says, 'Hel-lo, I can hit the ball harder than you and it always goes in.' And the kid is only 17, with nothing to lose. So now Chris knows how the rest of us felt about her all those years."
Evert Lloyd, who reigned supreme in women's tennis 1974-1978, acknowledges that it is disconcerting to find a mirror image of herself across the net. But she insists she is not ready to melt away like the snow yet, even though she can readily see the improvement in Austin's game.
"Tracy is hitting the ball with more pace than she was a year ago. The other players stay pretty much the same, but she's definitely hitting harder," Evert Lloyd said. "That suprised me. I think it's because I tend to forget that Tracy's still growing and getting stronger. She's getting more aggressive from the baseline all the time.
"I have to be more patient this time and try to break up her rhythm. The thing with Tracy is that she's toughest when she gets groove. You have to play her the way you play me, and that's difficult for me because my whole career I've played serve-and volleyers, Billie Jean and then Evonne and then Martina. Now all of a sudden I'm playing another baseliner, and I'm the one who has to change my game."
On Thursday, she tried to change it by hitting numerous drop shots, not only in rallies but on some returns of serve. The first few worked, but thereafter Austin -- who has marvelous anticipation and is as quick as she is steady -- got to them and hit forcing shots in reply.
"The first couple of times she didn't cover them that well, and I think that's why I won three games in the second set. I suprised her. But then she got on them and was there, ready and waiting.
"I just didn't feel grooved enough to pressure her. I could hit five or six good shots back in a rally, but not the next one. That's a matter of confidence. I just have to get more balls back this time, be sure of myself, and be more patient in the rallies. Sometimes I tried to end the points too quickly."
"Confidence" is something of a cliche in tennis, a buzz word. Inspired play is routinely credited to it. Failure is just as easily blamed on lack of it. But Evert Lloyd says that it is a palpable thing: the state of mind that allows well-trained muscles to work without interference from a self-doubting brain.
"It's amazing; I guess all these years I've taken it for granted, because I've always played on confidence, but now I know what it means not to have it," said Evert Lloyd, who for years was the the definitive portrait of self-assurance. Last year, when she gave top priority to her April 17 marriage to Englishman John Lloyd, rather than to her tennis, she lost 13 matches, nearly twice as many as in any pevious year since 1973. She won 89 matches, but the losses had an errosive effect on her formerly unerring game.
"I got to know what lack of confidence means," she said this week. "When I'm not confident, I get tentative. Instead of going for my shots and believing they will go in, I draw back a little bit and hit very short. Confindence is believing that you can hit the winning shot on match point, or go for the big serve when you're down an ad. It is playing aggressively instead of defensively. It's mental, but when you lose it your whole game changes physically.
"You hesitate, and instead of believing you can force and dominate the points you let your opponent dictate the pattern. Eight out of 10 times, you're going to lose that way.
"So confidence affects your shot selection as well as execution. Sometimes you feel like your arm's not going through as graceflly and fluently as it should, and it affects your game physically. You forget to reach on your serve, or you rush your shots, or hit the ball too low. When you're playing well, it's automatic, instinctive. You don't think about all the things you might be doing wrong."
On Thursday night, Evert Lloyd was thinking too much. She took to reenacting shots after making errors, subconsciously trying to remember how she used to hit her strokes. But she is sure she will remember eventually. After all, she has been hitting them most of her life, and you don't forget how to hit a forehand at age 25.
"I'm trying to get back in the groove again, to get the feel, so I don't make all these errors," she said. "In previous years, I could hit a ground stroke and not even need to think. I could just instincitvely hit it and know it would be a good shot and go in. I want to find that groove again."
Only this time, she wants to find it on her side of the net.