Virginia Wade, once the champion of Wimbledon and the United States Open, played her first-round match in the 1981 U.S. Open today before 20,000 mostly empty seats in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
One of the reasons was a match being played on Court 16, where 2,500 people watched two teen tots, Kathy Horvath and Kathy Rinaldi, match ground strokes.
Rinaldi is this year's media darling. She beat Dianne Fromholtz and Anne Smith to reach the quarterfinals of the French Open, and became the youngest player -- at 14 -- to win a match at Wimbledon.
Today she found herself matched against a true veteran. Horvath is 16 years 1 week old, already the youngest person to have won a match in this tournament.
And so, with the crowd enthralled, the teens had at it. Two-fisted backhands against two-fisted backhands. Weak second serves against weak second serves. Ponytail and earrings against ponytail and earrings.
Surprisingly, the crowd was for Horvath. Although she is ranked No. 32 in the world, Horvath has not received that much attention because of Andrea Jaeger, who is also 16 and the No. 2 seed.
Rinaldi, ranked 38th, has received a good deal of attention, however, and the crowd adopted Horvath as the underdog. Rinaldi spent a lot of time flouncing around the court after missing shots, even letting a bad word slip from her mouth now and then.
Horvath's steadiness prevailed finally, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5. The match lasted 2 hours 30 minutes because the rallies often seemed endless, and the net was treated as if it were surrounded by quicksand.