It was one of Chris Evert Lloyd's grandest moments.
The Wimbledon championship was on the line and she was facing a younger opponent who beat her in the French Open on her best surface -- clay -- and who many experts believed would repeat the performance today.
But it was Evert's day, from start to finish, as she routed Hana Madlikova, the 19-year-old Czechoslovakian, 6-2, 6-2, in just one hour.
Evert had additional motivation: Mandlikova had irritated her several times the past two weeks and did so again before today's match, when the two players were in a waiting room before being called onto Centre Court for the finale. Mandlikova caught sight of a photograph on the wall.
"Who that?" asked Mandlikova. Told it was the late Maureen Connolly, she wondered some more. "Who was she?"
Apparently, Mandlikova's lack of Wimbledon history knowledge (Little Mo won here in 1952, 1953, and 1954) bothered Evert, who was too stunned to reply when Mandlikova admitted she had never heard of one of the two women who won the grand slam (in 1953).
More to the point, Evert was galled, her sense of traditional values offended. For two weeks here, Mandlikova has maintained that -- if she won this Wimbledon -- she would be three-quarters of the way to the grand slam herself. And now Evert realized, Mandiklova didn't even know the face or name of the woman whose ranks she was trying to join. Maybe she didn't know who Margaret Court (the other holder of the grand slam) was, either.
Mandlikova has been getting on Evert's nerves considerably of late. First, there was her win over Evert at the French Open last month. Then there was Mandlikova's eager willingness to go along with the notion that her Australian Open title in November 1980 ought to count as part of an '81 slam.
Then, of course, there is this business about Mandlikova being the player whose emergence will prompt Evert into early retirement.
So this afternoon, Evert had had enough. She bore a hole through Mandlikova that left the teenager a shambles of wrecked nerves, lost will and crumbling strokes. Afterward, Mandlikova, for better or wose, said: "She didn't beat me. I beat myself . . . I got too tight and I can't play that way . . . I never realized how difficult the first Wimbledon final is. It's really something else.Chris has been here many times before. That's a big advantage . . . I will be back, for the next 10 years, I hope . . . Maybe this is Chris' last Wimbledon."
In other words, Mandlikova did a pretty fair job, whether she knew it or not, of trying to tarnish Evert's third Wimbledon plate ('74 and '76), one Chris desperatley wanted after losing in the final here for the past three years.
"Very gracious," responded Evert when told of Mandlikova's remarks.
Evert was assured that Mandlikova had also said favorable things, after some prompting with leading queries: "Chris is the toughest player I know in every way, mentally and physically. She's smart, too. And a nice person."
However, Evert got the drift.
"Winning Wimbledon is no easy thing. It's more than tennis. It's a battle of nerves, and mentally, I was stronger today," said Evert.
"Hana did not play her best, but part of playing well is being gutsy, using your head." said Evert. "She really didn't use her head at all . . . Maybe she just thinks she can win on talent alone . . . She didn't deserve to win Wimbledon the way she played today."
The way Mandlikova played was, in a nutshell, awful in her 60 minutes of torture this afternoon before a standing-room-only crowd that, for the second day in a row, included Lady Diana Spencer, as well as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Duchess of Kent.
"So bad," Evert called it.
"The worst I've played in a very long time," agreed Mandlikova. A great part of that, however, was Evert's doing. The world's No. 1 women's tennis player of '80 usually bases her game on base line ground strokes. But here she has specially changed her preparation, with Mandlikova in mind, working far more on her first serve and return of serve.
The resuls were spectacular, prompting Evert to say, "Every year I come here, I learn how to play better on grass. The sheer challenge of it pleases me. I still think I'm young and I'm definitely not going to quit. As long as I'm enjoying it, I'll be here."
As for speculation by some players here that a title would precipitate an Evonne Goolagong Cawley-style baby break, Evert grinned at her husband, John Lloyd, and said, "Well, right now I'm not pregnant."
Some would say this was Evert's gratis Wimbledon, a recompence for all her aggravations here. To win, Evert had to beat players named O'neil, Vermaak, Forood, Pasquale, Jausovec and Shriver. Evert never lost a set in the whole tournament, and in her last four matches won 48 of 60 games.
Still, Evert is playing so well on grass that her long-range future has never looked better. This afternoon, under forbidding misting skies that broke into full sunshine in mid-match, Evert blistered 74.5 percent of her first serves into play (38 of 51), keeping Mandlikova on the base line where her impatience betrays her.
Despite Mandlikova's protestations about having the shakes -- born out by her staggering 32 unforced errors (two per game) -- the 5-foot-8 right-hander still had her most potent weapon intact. Mandlikova put 44 of 66 first serves into play, a ratio that would almost always put her in charge of a match.
Against Evert, it got her nothing. After opening the match by holding serve, Mandlikova lost five of her remaining seven service games (including two in the second set at 15) and had break points against her in the other two. In fact, after that first game, Evert had 10 more points on Mandlikova's serve than Mandlikova did (36 to 26).
Mandlikova had a simple strategy: entice Evert to bet with drop shots and short balls to her forehand, than pass or lob her. That tactic lasted about 10 minutes. Mandlikova couldn't control her touch on finesse shots enough to taunt Evert, the queen of drops.
Just a year and a half ago, when Evert took a three-month break from her sport because of "tennis exhaustion," it seemed she would never regain the undisputed summit of her game as she has now.
"I was No. 3 then, my career looked like it was slipping and I felt I had something to prove," Evert told the British public, which adores her. "My comeback last year, especially winning the U.S. Open, changed my whole career around . . . "Now, I know that when I'm determined, I'm still the best. I proved at the U.S. Open and I proved it here."
As one-sided as this match was, there was a sense, at least until the final two games, that Mandlikova, if she could suddenly hit a vein of winners, might reserve the match and play like the gambling dervish who had blitzed six women here.
At every juncture where Mandlikova might have taken heart, Evert brought her back to earth. "I just kept remembering," said Evert, "that even though she may hit a couple of flashy shots, she'll come back with a couple of errors . . . I was a differnt person out there today. In the last three finals, Martina (navratilova in '78 and '79) and Evonne (Goolagong in '80) were aggressive and I was defensive. This time I felt completely in charge.
"Does it make up for the other three?" asked Evert, who is three for seven in Wimbledon finals over a decade. "I don't know if I'd go that far. But it feels great."
Mandlikova felt that the match's second game was bizarre as it may seem, the turning point. She had two break points and could have gone up 2-0, but sliced a backhand wide on one and gasped as Evert hit a forehand cross-court pass on the other.
"If I win that game," said Mandlikova, "I think it is absolutley different."
Instead, Mandlikova self-destructed immediatley, serving three of her six double faults in the match in the next game, including back-to-back double faults at deuce to hand Evert a gift of break-of-serve and a 2-1 lead.
Mandlikova regained consciousness in the second set. She fought off a break point in the first game, then after being broken in the third game, answered in kind with her only service break against Evert all day in the fourth game to get 2-2.
Mandlikova couldn't stand prosperity. She opened and closed the next game with double faults as Evert gratefully accepted the break at 15. The Czech's final chance came when she got a break point immediatley on Evert's serve. But she couldn't cash it and the Bank of Lloyd closed its withdrawl window for the day. Evert held serve. She promptly broke Mandlikova again just for insult and closed the match by winning seven of the last eight points.
Few champions know how to enjoy victory as well as Evert, who has had scads of practice: three Wimbledons, five U.S. Opens, four French Opens and five season's as the world's top-ranked women's player.
She and husband John, who acquitted himself well in his two singles matches here, began teasing each other about what the score would be if they played a serious match.
"Love and love," said John, who was practice partner for this Wimbledon.
"Okay, on grass, love and love," admitted Evert. "But on clay, I'd win a few games."
"Love and love," reiterated John.
"We fight about this all the time," said Evert, narrowing her determined eyes and looking peeved. "He says, 'love and love,' but then he won't play me."
In that, as Hana Mandlikova discovered, he is a wise man.