It says here that Tracy Austin will win the $250,000 Colgate Series Championships, which begin today at Capital Centre. She will beat another 18-year-old, Hana Mandlikova, in the final next Monday evening, supplementing her allowance by $75,000 before heading back to class at Rolling Hills (Calif.) High School.
Martina Navratilova will edge Chris Evert Lloyd in the third-place consolation match. Andrea Jaeger, after scaring the daylights out of a couple of the semifinalists, will settle for fifth place, blunting the attack of Pam Shriver. Wendy Turnball will finish seventh, over Virginia Ruzici, and they will share the Ms. Congeniality award.
The doubles? They will unfortunately be played, as usual, late at night, after most spectators have gone home and morning newspaper deadlines have passed. Kathy Jordan and Anne Smith, the Great Unknown French Open and Wimbledon champions, will divide $30,000 after beating Shriver and Betty Stove in the final Friday evening.
Now that Austin, Jordan and Smith think I'm a genius, and all the other players in this appealing tournament are sure I'm an idiot, let me hedge a bit. If I'm wrong, I want an "out."
This tournament is especially difficult to predict because it is played at a funny time of year. The players are all-stars, the top point-winners over the Derby distance of 39 Colgate Series tournaments in 1980, but they come here after a holiday break, moving indoors after playing outdoors before Christmas. Some players take time to settle into a rhythm for the new season. Thus, recent form doesn't mean much.
Still, the stakesa are considerable. This tournament not only wraps up 1980 but kicks off 1981. All the women who would be queen are here, and those who do well will have an early jump that could have long-range significance.
Women's tennis at the top level is a cerebral game. Mental edges are important, fragile and eagerly, if sometimes subconsciously, sought. The psychological undercurrents are palpable. Aficionados and the players themselves will be studying mind games as well as strategy.
"This is one of the most fascinating tournaments in years," enthuses Ted Tinling, couturier and tennis savant for more than 50 years. "The whole of the 1981 order is at stake. All the players know it. Each one is poised on her own personal razor's edge."
He cited a luncheon yesterday at which Evert, 26, still perhaps something of a mythic figure to the youngsters, teased Jaeger about being only 15. Evert genuinely likes and respects Jaeger, a spunky kid who brings not a breath but a whirlwind of fresh air to women's tournaments, but she also rightfully views her as a formidable professional threat. The kidding was cute, good natured, but may have carried a message: "Wait your turn, dear."
"The first shot has already been played over lunch," Tinling said gleefully. "The women are much more conscious of status and rank than the men. My lifelong theory has been that 50 percent of women's tennis is played in the locker room. The men tend to think the court is their battlefield; they'll prove their superiority there. The women are more inclined to jockey for position and psychological advantage. They're more complex characters in a way, more intuitive about each other's vulnerabilities."
I'm picking Austin, who was overwhelmed by a brilliant Navratilova in the final last year, on the hunch that she is the mentally toughest at the moment and has the most incentive. Austin clings to the notion that if she wins here, she deserves consideration for the No. 1 ranking for 1980, which most authorities already have bestowed on Evert. "I think it's pretty close, and I think the Colgate will help decide," says Austin, who knows that the panel which selects the International Tennis Federation's world champion meets here.
Austin would most like to beat Evert, whom she stomped three times last January. They didn't play again until the semifinals of the U.S. Open, where Evert got revenge with the most surprising and important psychological victory of the year, one that validated her return to the pinnacle of the game. v
The Colgate title could depend most on Navratilova's form, physical and mental. She has not played consistently well since winning the first five tournaments of 1980, but thinks she is ready to reassert herself.
"It's been four weeks since anybody played anybody, so nobody has an edge," she says. "We're starting fresh. I get excited at the start of the year, and I love playing indoors on carpet. I think I have as good a chance to win this tournament as anybody."
It is seldom wise to bet against Evert, but this is a tough tournament for her. She hasn't played a competitive match since the Wightman Cup in November, and doesn't plan to enter another tournament until March. (She will accompany her husband, John Lloyd, to his tournaments.) She knows she is vulnerable, especially if she has to play Austin.
"She's my toughest opponent because we have the same style and temperament. I have to get really psyched up to beat hewr, and I don't know if I can get as psyched up as I was at the Open," says Evert. "I'm a slow starter, anyway, and it's going to be twice as hard for me because I'm not playing after this.
"I think Hana and Tracy have a good chance to win the tournament. I have a chance and Martina has an outside chance. I can't put my money on her. It would surprise me if she won, even though it's her surface and her time of year. She hasn't played up to par at all for nine months, but it's hard to know when she's going to snap out of it."
Mandlikova, gifted and exciting, won six tournaments over the last five months of 1980. She finally beat Evert -- who had beaten her in three sets in the Italian, French, Canadian, and U.S. opens -- in Atlanta in the autumn, and is brimming with confidence.
"I cringe when I think back, because the first couple of times I played her, she could have had me," said Evert. "I didn't think she was that good until the U.S. Open, and I think that attitude won me the matches against her in the Italian and French. If she had won one of them, the whole year could have been different."
Shriver, Turnball and Ruizici must be considered outsiders, capable of troubling anyone, but highly unlikely to win the tournament. Everybody fears Jaeger, a fighter and scambler, but she may not yet be strong enough to win several big matches in a row. Make her the darkhorse.
Meanwhile, I'm going out on a limb and picking Austin, which is sure to get seven other women mad at me. Not very good odds there. But that's the risk predicting winners. It's dirty work, but somebody's got to do it.
After all, it's a new season, and maybe I can get a psychological edge on all the other pundits.