Perhaps it was predestined that rain should return to Wimbledon late this afternoon, keeping Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors off the courts and further disrupting the men's schedule, for this day belonged to women's tennis. It was owned by a youngster, Andrea Jaeger, and by the grande dame of Wimbledon, Billie Jean King.
Jaeger, who celebrated her 15th birthday 26 days ago and is the youngest player ever seeded here, beat 1977 champion Virginia Wade, 6-2, 7-6, on the Centre Court, becoming the youngest quarterfinalist in the 103-year history of the oldest and most revered of tennis tournaments.
King, a year older than Wade at 36 and playing her 20th Wimbledon to Wade's 19th, survived a match point at 4-5 in the second set and went on to beat 17-year-old Pam Shriver of Lutherville, Md., 5-7, 7-6, 10-8.
Shriver has been working diligently to regain the form that made her the youngest finalist in the history of the U.S. Open in 1978. She led, 4-2, 40-0, in the final set, and had five game points in all for 5-2.
Going for broke, she served three double faults in that game, and wound up losing a 2-hour 40-minute battle that was thrilling, exquisitely played, and dramatic on several levels.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley, the 1971 champion and No. 4 seed, also had her hands full with another talented teen-ager. She was down a set and 1-3 before dispatching Hana Mandlikova, an 18-year-old Czech with great shotmaking gifts but a real mental block about closing out matches, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1.
Mandlikova, an aggressive player with a dazzling varietey of shots somewhat reminiscent of Goolagong at the same age, already has a history of getting ahead in matches, then letting the magic that got her there vanish.
Just when she seemed to have Goolagong where she wanted her, she double-faulted at break point and lost 10 games in a row. Just two weeks ago, she led Tracy Austin, 6-1, 3-0, in a tournament at Eastbourne, and similarly disintegrated.
Two other women's champions -- Martina Navratilova, seeking to become the first player since King in 1966-67-68 to win the singles title three years running, and 1974 and '76 champion Chris Evert Lloyd -- won much easier matches.
Navratilova was down 1-3 in the first set, and two break point for 1-4, but lifted the level of her powerful game and swept away Kathy Jordan, an improving 20-year-old Pennsylvanian, 6-4, 6-2.
Evert traded service breaks with JoAnne Russell in the first four games, which lasted 40 minutes. Then she got grooved on a bumpy outside court to win, 6-3, 6-2.
The day's most one-sided victories were achieved by No. 2 seed Austin, who thumped Terry Holladay, 6-2, 6-3, and Greer Stevens, who walloped Dianne Fromholtz, 6-2, 6-2.
The women's quarterfinal pairings shape up like this: Navratilova versus King, her doubles partner; Evert versus Jaeger; Goolagong versus Wendy Turnbull (a 6-0, 6-2 victor over Lele Forood today), and Austin versus Stevens.
Only three of the eight scheduled men's fourth-round matches were completed before rain halted play, all on outside courts that turned gauging the bounce of the ball into a guessing game.
Gene Mayer had enough stamina to last until he found his touch and beat 35-year-old Colin Dibley, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Brian Gottfried routed Phil Den, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, and last year's runner-up, Roscoe Tanner, served poorly but hung in to beat fellow left-hander Nick Saviano, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Three singles matches were suspended in progress. Vitas Gerulaitis led Wojtek Fibak, 6-3, 5-3; John McEnroe was ahead of Kevin Curren, 7-5, 7-6, 3-3, and Peter Fleming was within three points of ousting Onny Parun, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 6-6, 4 points to 1 in the tie breaker with Parun to serve the next two points.
Borg, the four-time defending champion who is seeking an all-time record 32nd consecutive singles victory at Wimbledon against Balazs Taroczy, and Connors, who is paired against big-serving Hank Pfister, did not get to hit a ball.
The completion of the men's fourth round has been rescheduled for Tuesday, along with the women's quarterfinals. The men's quarterfinals and women's semis will be played Wednedsay, barring more rain.
But if this day finished up wet and glomy, as so many before it have in this soggiest of recent Wimbledons, for a few hours at least it sparkled and glowed. Jaeger and King and Shriver saw to that.
Jaeger, a high school freshman from Lincolnshire, Ill. who has done more in her first Wimbledon than either of those other recent prodigies,, Evert and Austin, went out on Centre Court of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for the second time and looked as if she had been playing there all her life.
On a gusty afternoon, she ran like the wind, scrambled to keep points alive, and lobbed like a dream. Wade was clearly nervous and off form. She tried to rally with the youngster, a tactical mistake she paid for dearly. There was no way she could "outpatient" Jaeger, as the youngster put it.
Wade -- "Our Ginny," the last British hope as usual -- may have had millions of housewives pulling for her as they watched on television, but the crowd was captivated by Jaeger's pluck and presence, and applauded her tenacious play.
"I think it was even, like if she won a game, they'd clap really loud, and then when I won a game they calpped just as loud," said Jaeger, an engaging and spunky teen-ager off the court, a cold-blooded killer on it.
"I think that made a difference, because when you're young and coming up, you don't want to go on the court and have everyone boo you and clap for the other person."
Jaeger, twirling her racket like a majorette, kept the ball in play the first set and let Wade make fitful errors as she struggled to find her feel for the ball, which she did only for a brief patch in the second set.
Then despite flubbing a couple of easy smashes early, Wade got to the net more and broke for 5-3 in a game that went to deuce four times. Here Jaeger showed her toughness, though, breaking right back, winning three straight games for 6-5, then winning the decisive tie breaker after losing her serve at love.
Perhaps the most important point, both players agreed, came with Jaeger serving at 4-5, 0-15. Three times Wade had chances to put away overhead smashes, and three times Jaeger retrieved the ball. Twice she guessed where Wade was going to hit the ball, and the third time she faked her and got back into the point, eventually winning it with a backhand pass.
"I think maybe it was my mental side that helped me through that match, because when you're down 5-3, it doesn't matter what you come up with on your shots," Jaeger said.
"That overhead point was a big one because she saw I wasn't going to give up on anything, and that made her a little nervous."
Jaeger got angry at herself for losing four straight points when she served for the match, hacking the court with her racket and gesturing disgustedly at a rough patch in the turf, but she channelled her funk into winning the ensuing tie breaker, 7 points to 2.
"I was pretty mad . . . but usually when I lose the second set, I play better in the third. I think that is sort of what happened in the tie breaker," said Jaeger, who delivered her best serve of the match at 0-1, and hit a winning volley on match point.
She is 15, but she is a champion.
So, too, is King who has won more Wimble titles (20) than any other player in history. Today's victory was the 210th of her Wimbledon career (including doubles), but few have been harder-earned or more satisfying.
King versus Shriver was a splendid, well-played match from beginning to end. Both are aggressive, serve-volley players with games well-suited to a grass court duel.
Neither could wait to get to the net, coming in behind serves, returns of second serves, and chipped approaches that stayed low in the soft, unpredictable grass of Court No. 2.
The marathon match was full of animated points, fearless lunging and stretching, and volleys off volleys, with both players in the forecourt and still moving forward. And throughout, there was an undercurrent of tension, of electricity, a clash of emotional temperaments.
In the 11th game, with King serving at break point down for the fifth time, the umpire, an imcompetent woman who frequently called the score wrong -- ordered a "let" played after King pointedly questioned a fault call on her serve.
Shriver, incensed, immediately called for the tournament referee, and raised her right arm in a defiant gesture when she forced the backhand error that won her the game.
She appealed to the referee again when King queried another call early in the second set.
"I've played Billie Jean a few times, and any close calls, she's going to glare at the linesman, glare at the umpire, and try to intimidate them," Shriver said.
"That first call was a perfect example. I saw the serve three or four inches out, but Billie Jean got to the umpire. So immediately, I called for the referee. I wasn't going to wait around . . . I've seen Billie Jean do that enough, and frankly it just ticks me off. I wasn't going to get pushed around, and I wanted her to know that."
Shriver, serving oppressively at times and chipping wonderful returns off both sides, led almost all the way.
She never had break point against her until she served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. Then she saved two from 15-40, got to match point, but pushed a forehand volley long -- the sort she had been drilling up to then.
King leveled at 5-5 by whacking two return winners, and won the tie breaker, 7 points to 5.
Shriver looked dejected, but kept playing marvelously attacking tennis to get ahead, 4-2, 40-0, in the final set, then came the first of the three double-faults that were her undoing, the last a foot long on break point.
"I was trying to put a little more on the second ball. I felt like I had to because I didn't want to be coming to the net on second serves and being on the defensive," said Shriver. "Heck, I guess it was nerves, too, a little bit. But I didn't want to just get the ball over because I knew I wasn't going to win that way."