Chris Evert Lloyd and Hana Mandlikova reached the women's final of the championships at Wimbledon in equally splendid but opposite fashions today at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
Evert dispatched a nervous Pam Shriver of Baltimore County precisely and analytically, 6-3, 6-1, while Hammerin' Hana blasted a barrage of spectacular, gambling winners in her victory over former countrywoman and childhood idol Martina Navratilova, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.
Evert's only major mistake on Centre Court this afternoon came as she and the distraught Shriver walked off the court. Evert forgot to curtsy to the royal box until Shriver grabbed her and reminded her. Shriver's gloom broke in a smile and Evert snickered into her palm.
Thus Evert, the empress of a tennis epoch, reached her seventh Wimbledon final in 10 years. In that time, she has never been eliminated here before the semifinals. The gracious Shriver said it all for many in the standing-room-only stadium: "Even players have sentimental favorites and I'd love to see Chris win. I think she wants to go out in a blaze of glory this year and start a family. It would make it all like a fairy tale and I hope she does.
"You feel certain things in your heart, and I just think it would be sad to see Chris finish with four straight losses in the (Wimbledon) finals after the great career she's had. Hana, and Tracy (Austin) and I . . . We all have a lot of years left."
That is the voice of the heart, but Mandlikova speaks with the overhead, the crackling serve and the gloriously graceful leaping volley at the net. As great as Evert has been in her lightfooted balletic base line way, that is how Mandlikova may soon be in a fierce, feline fashion.
It is possible that Mandlikova is just 48 hours away from collecting the third leg of the third women's grand slam in history. It gets sticky here. Mandlikova won the Australian Open last November, and the French last month (in the semis she ended an Evert skein of 189-1 on clay).
Now comes in the question: Does that Australian Open count as part of a current grand slam effort? It's a matter of definition and semantics. Maureen Connolly won the slam -- Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open -- in 1953 and Margaret Court did it in 1970 -- each time with all four tournaments in the same calendar year. Since then, the dates of the Australian have been shunted about from November to December to January so often that even tennis encyclopedists aren't sure which "season" the Australian is part of.
At the least, Mandlikova is nearly three-quarters of the way to being the third woman to hold all four titles simultaneously, whatever calendar years they're in. Mandlikova, naturally, says that the Australian counts. Evert says, publicly, that she disagrees. Privately, Evert's reaction to Mandlikova's designs on a discount slam is "bull."
The go-for-broke Mandlikova -- who either hits untouchable winners or makes unforgiveable errors -- may one day play a match in which her opponent never hits the ball, except on her own serve. "Hana is so unpredictable and aggressive that it is hard to get any rhythm or feel of the match," said Navratilova, who left the court weeping, her face buried in a towel. "The points are over fast and you never get to hit many normal shots."
Before the match, Navratilova had said, "I know if I lose, then in Czechoslovakia they will say it is because I came (defected) to the States. They'll use it for all it's worth."
Navratilova played with a rage to win, but it would have helped more to play with a decent first serve. "She just served that much better than I did," said Navratilova, who was devastated by Mandlikova's seven aces and 17 service winners.
"My serve fell apart," Navratilova said. "She'd get to the net before I did on my second serves. . . In the first set, I never got close to her serve. It could have been 6-1, instead of 7-5. . . Then, I put so much energy into winning the second set (with a service break in the final game), I didn't have much left for the last set," said Navratilova, who was demoralized by the finish, losing 11 of the last 13 points.
Mandlikova and the 24-year-old Navratilova, who both learned the game from the same Prague coach, are as close to mirror images of the same power game as will ever be seen. Every point was a race to the net, a battle to blow the other off the court with crashing overheads or a put-away volley.
"When I was little girl," said the 19-year-old Mandlikova, who still has a schoolgirl's face, "I hated those boring base-line players. I saw Martina play when I was 10 and I said, 'That's how I want to play.'"
"No rallies in that match," grinned Evert, who succeeded in keeping the net-charging Shriver at bay, and passed her with chilly precision whenever she dared come forward.
Shriver was under pressure in every service game of the match except the first. She began the second set by breaking serve for the only time, but Evert responded by winning six games in a row.
Evert has reached the final without dropping a set, and has lost only 22 games in her six matches.
Asked to evaluate Mandlikova, Evert, who has won Wimbledon twice, but lost four finals, shrugged her shoulders comically and said, "Hana . . . Eeehh," as though dismissing her totally. Then, seriously, Evert added, "You're asking me that after she beat me on my surface (clay), so I'd say I'm real impressed. She's got every shot in the book. She's a moody player, like Evonne (Goolagong Cawley), but more consistent."
Navratilova put her finger on Mandlikova's great leap forward today: "Her nerves were fantastic."
"Right before the match," said Mandlikova, whose father was an Olympic dashman in 1956 and 1960 and who is now a Czech sports journalist, "I had five rackets on my arms and one slipped. I tried to catch it and I dropped all five on the floor."
At only one juncture in her match could Mandlikova's youth and nerves have betrayed her. Navratilova had made her push in the second set, running like a wild woman, even if it wore her out. But Mandlikova countered with an early service break in the final set to go up 3-1. Navratilova knew she had to break back immediately or face a short, bleak future.
With the fifth game of the last set at 30-30, a linesman called Mandlikova for a double foot fault that gave Navratilova a desperately needed break point and chance to get back on serve. For the only time, Mandlikova was mad and rattled. Mostly, she had charmed the crowd all day.
But that food fault got her goat. She stood over the offending judge and read him the riot act for a showboat, look-at-me call. Meanwhile, Navratilova cooled her heels. Then, cool as anything, Mandlikova crunched a backhand pass down the line to escape the crisis, then finished the game in typical style with a serve-and-forehand-volley. Then a service winner. That made it 4-1, over and out.
Defeat struck Shriver and Navratilova oppositely. "I've had a lot worse losses than to the No. 1 player in the world," said Shriver. "Besides, I served like a dog. . . My Wimbledon was my match (win) over Tracy Austin."
Navratilova was almost philosophical. "Now, the U.S. Open will have to redeem my year," she said. "I hope I am an American citizen by then. . . But naturalization seems like a never-ending process. The red tape is as bad in the States as anywhere else."
Asked if she were sorry she left Czechoslovakia, her parting words were: "I'd rather be a (U.S.) citizen than win this thing (Wimbledon)."
Even Mandlikova had a bit of fun at the expense of her government. No Czech journalists are here, despite the fact that many were at the French Open. Why?"Maybe nobody expected me to be in the final," she replied.