The match between Chris Evert Lloyd and Hana Mandlikova had been touted as the U.S. Open final that would be played in the quarterfinals, pairing the two women tennis players many consider the best in the world. But the buildup for today's match ended in a letdown when Evert routed her opponent, 6-1, 6-3, in 59 minutes on a windblown court at the National Tennis Center.
Mandlikova never competed. She lost the first set in 21 minutes, winning three points in four service games. She managed to hold serve once in the second set and had several games at deuce. But each time she was in a position to make it a match, Mandlikova either missed an easy shot or Evert came up with a winner.
While Evert coasted, second-seeded Bjorn Borg faced his first challenge of the tournament in the person of Yannick Noah. Noah, the lithe 21-year-old from Cameroon, won the first-set tie breaker, 7 points to 2, before Borg came around to win, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, and advance to the quarterfinals.
Next, Borg meets Roscoe Tanner, the man who beat him in the quarterfinals two years ago and took him to five sets last year before losing. Tanner beat sixth-seeded Guillermo Vilas today, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6. The tie breaker went to 15-13 before Vilas missed two straight passing shots.
Jimmy Connors won, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, romping by Mike Cahill, who made the tournament draw when Carlos Castellan defaulted at the last minute.
Rain postponed until Wednesday two key night matches, Eliot Teltscher versus Brian Gottfried and Martina Navratilova versus Anne Smith.
Cahill's defeat was no surprise. But it was a surprise when Mandlikova, the runner-up here a year ago, was unceremoniously sent off the stadium court as a chilled crowd of 16,010 watched.
"I got on top of her the first three games of the match," Evert said. "In the first game, I hit several winners, and that's very uncharacteristic of me. You can't let Hana get in the match, though. Once she gets going she can be brilliant."
That never happened today. Mandlikova made 36 unforced errors in 15 games, time and again pushing her ground strokes deep as she chipped away, apparently afraid to hit out in the wind.
"The wind made it very hard to play," Mandlikova said. "I was afraid to hit my shots. Chris played well, I did not. It happens."
It is more likely to happen if Evert's opponent has beaten the five-time U.S. Open champion. Evert has admitted she has trouble respecting an opponent until she has proved she can beat her. Once beaten, though, Evert not only plays harder next time but prepares harder.
When Evert lost to Mandlikova in the French Open final this year, it was only her second loss on clay in 191 matches covering eight years. The emergence of Mandlikova as the new No. 1 player was heralded. But Evert since has squelched such speculation by routing Mandlikova in the Wimbledon final, a Canadian Open semifinal and today's quarterfinal.
"Once Hana beat me, I knew I had to go on the court expecting her to play her best match every time I played her," Evert said. "She really knocked me off guard when she beat me at the French, really surprised me."
From the beginning of this match, Evert was ready, passing Mandlikova when she came to the net, then coming in herself and hitting winners when Mandlikova hit short.
"I think the wind affected Hana more than it did me," Evert said. "It wasn't fun playing out there, though, for either one of us."
Evert now has reached the semifinals of this tournament 11 times in 11 tries, an unparalleled accomplishment. Surprisingly, she says the motivation she needs to be on top of her game is there this week, even though she won Wimbledon this year.
"Winning is sweeter for me now than five or six years ago when people said I dominated tennis," she said. "I don't dominate it anymore. (Her nondominant match record this year is 51-2.) There are at least five people who can win every tournament now. I'm in a good position here because I'm seeded No. 1, but everyone is picking other people. That's fine with me."
One of those other persons was Mandlikova. Next up, most likely, is Navratilova.
Borg undoubtedly would love to have the kind of quarterfinal Evert had. But he does not expect it. Tanner has the serve and volley game that is effective here and he always has played Borg well since their five-set Wimbledon final in 1979.
"How it goes all depends on how he plays," Borg said. "If he gets his first serve in, he will be tough. If not, he will be in a lot of trouble."