It is now taken for granted at the U.S. Open that the women play for the same prize money as the men. Today, the women showed why they deserve to earn as much as the men.
Chris Evert Lloyd's stunning dismemberment of Tracy Austin in the It should have made the Hana Mandlikova-Andrea Jaeger match that followed an anticlimax.
For close to two hours, the two teenagers gave their all. Mandlikova finally won the match, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6, with some tough heady play in the tie breaker to win it, 7-4, after she had blown two match points at 5-4.
"I lost patience on match point," the 18-year-old Czech said afterward. "I was too quick. I wanted it over. Finito."
Finishing Jaeger was not an easy task. Each time Mandlikova seemed to have Jaeger under her control, her 15-year-old opponent would slip out of her grasp.
This was a match that the crowd in Louis Armstrong Stadium enjoyed thoroughly. Unlike the Evert-Austin match where almost the entire crowd was behind Evert, the crowd here was neutral, rooting only for good play. They got plenty of it.
"It helped me when the crowd got into the match," Jaeger said. "The first set no one had anything to shout about because it wasn't even a set. I was getting killed.
"But the second and third sets, when we would come off to make the change, people would be yelling "Come on, Hana,' or 'Come on, Andrea.'"
Those yelling for Andrea had anxious moments throughout the match. With the possible exception of Martina Navratilova, who she beat in the fourth round here, Mandlikova probably has the best first serve in women's tennis.
Today, she used that first serve to keep Jaeger continually on the run, losing her serve only once in the match, in the fourth game of the second set following an 18-minute rain delay that Mandlikova said stiffened her up slightly.
Jaeger's serve, on the other hand, resembled The Perils of Pauline. After breaking Mandlikova, she survived nine break points in her next three serving games to win the second set.
The third set was the same story with Mandlikova holding almost at will and Jaeger hanging on gamely again and again. Serving at 4-5, she survived two break points at 15-40. At 5-6 she came up with a forehand winner off a Mandlikova drop shot to avoid deuce and send the match into a tie breaker.
Even in the tie breaker, after Mandlikova went ahead, 6-3, helped largely by two perfect drop shots, Jaeger wouldn't quit, coming up with a service winner. Finally, on the fourth match point, Mandlikova nailed a forehand volley for the victory and threw her arms up in the air.
"Every time I play her she is harder to beat," Mandlikova said. "When she gets older and stronger she will be very hand. A very good player."
Jaeger was disappointed, but philosophical in defeat, especially when asked how her father would react to her loss. "If I had lost, 6-1, 6-1, or something against somebody who isn't very good it would be one thing," she said. "But I lost saving match points and going into the tie breaker against a good player. Of course I'm disappointed, but the next time I'm in a match like this I'll be a better player because I had this experience."
"I think I did great for summer," said Jaeger who will start her junior year at Adlai Stevenson High School in Prairie View, Ill., 10 days late next week. "I don't think I really could have expected much more. I made my seed in every tournament and did better than that in some of them."
Next year though she will face a different challenge as much more will be expected of her. Frequently, raised expectations create tremendous pressure and he game stops being fun -- Evert went through such a phase and Austin may be entering one. But Jaeger said it doesn't concern her.
"I still look at myself as a 15-year-old," she said. "When I come here next year I'll be 16. I'll still play pinball and I'll still play Space Invaders. It isn't like I'm going to mature 10 years in one year. I'll still have fun."