When Tracy Austin thinks of Washington, she'll think of the Smith Center.
The Anne Smith Center, that is.
Last night, the rambunctious, hard-scrabbling Smith played tennis as though she owned the building, and Austin, too. The all-court hustler, aptly nicknamed Pepper, not only upset, but crushed the top-seeded Austin in the second round of the Avon Championships of Washington, 6-3, 6-1.
Before a crowd of 4,300 in George Washington University's Smith Center could fully grasp the depth of Austin's predicament, the 22-year-old Smith had thrashed the daylights out of the No. 2-ranked player in the world.
In a breakneck, 75-minute demolition--full of scrabbling, retrieving, all-court points--Smith blitzed Austin in what Smith called "the greatest win of my life," and what Austin called the most error-filled performance she could ever remember.
"Maybe this is good for me," said Austin, fresh from the disappointment of finishing an eyelash behind Chris Evert Lloyd in most awards for top player of 1981. "I really put a lot of pressure on myself thinking about this big No. 1 thing. I wanted to start this year perfect. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. It's not necessary.
"Anne played well," said Austin, who has not lost this early in a tournament in nearly three years--since March 1979, when Smith's doubles partner, Kathy Jordan, beat her in the first round in Philadelphia.
"But," said Austin, a bit gracelessly, "it wasn't her game that beat me. It was my game."
"That's okay, Tracy, don't give me any credit," said Smith with a delighted laugh when told of Austin's assessment of the proceedings. "I'll give myself credit. My parents will. She doesn't have to give me credit."
In addition to the 5-foot-5, 117-pound Smith, who is the 16th-ranked player in the world and who once scored 50 points in the first half of a high school basketball game, three other players advanced to the quarterfinals: Pam Shriver, Bettina Bunge, and Bonnie Gadusek.
Only Bunge was pressed, escaping a match point before beating Candy Reynolds, 1-6, 6-1, 7-5. "I was ready to shake her hand," said Bunge, "but she let me off, and so I beat her."
The sharp-as-a-razor Shriver, who'll meet Smith in the quarters, sliced past plucky Pam Casale, 6-1, 6-2, and Gadusek beat Sharon Walsh, 6-3, 6-1. In another match overshadowed by Smith's shocking upset, Andrea Jaeger completed first-round play with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Sandy Collins.
Sometimes, when the morning star is tucked in the arm of a crescent moon, and Jupiter is aligned with Mars, Tracy Austin has a bad night on a tennis court.
Usually, when that happens the woman across the net from Austin isn't ready for the chance of a career, doesn't even know her hour of luck is at hand. And so the moment of potential drama passes unnoticed and the tough, icy Austin escapes.
The black-haired Smith--a portrait of slim, hard-trained athleticism in her low-over-the-brow headband, shorts rather than dress, striped basketball sneakers and striped knee-high basketball socks--saw her opportunity from the first and attacked Austin relentlessly.
"I'd say I was patient, yet aggressive. And I served great," said Smith, who heretofore has been known almost entirely for her excellence in doubles, where she and Jordan have won the four grand slam titles within the past two seasons. "I love to attack and have quick points, but I sometimes have trouble picking my spots to do it. I'm sure even my friends probably said, 'Anne hasn't got the patience to beat Tracy.' "
This night, with Austin's help, she not only beat her, but bashed her.
"When I won the first game of the match," said Smith, "the crowd cheered like they were just glad I'd been able to win one game."
Austin sent a real buzz through the crowd, one that never stopped, when she doubled-faulted on game point to lose her own serve and fall behind, 5-3, in the first set. That happens about every other time that Halley's Comet appears.
Smith served out the set with greedy speed, but even then had a world of doubts about beating a player who had swept their eight previous meetings. "Did I think I had her then?" asked Smith. "No way. Not against Tracy Austin."
Smith, a Dallas native who has only reached the quarterfinals of one grand slam event in singles (1981 U.S. Open), began making converts when she broke Austin in the first and third games of the second set, bolting to a 4-0 lead. Austin, back turned to the court, held a meeting with herself.
"I wanted to get my head together, concentrate. I knew I could still win . . . I've never made so many unforced errors. At least 50. Well, too many, at least," said Austin, who received almost no crowd support.
The tide never turned. Austin fought off two match points, but never came close to unsettling Smith's pace afoot or pace on the ball.
"I saw this one lady going hysterical rooting for me," said Austin, wistfully, almost sadly. "On one match point, she was going crazy waving her arms like this. She was so excited, it really helped. Nobody else seemed to be. Maybe they always expect me to get out of the hole. A lot of times, I have.
"Maybe that lady realized just how deep a hole I was in."
And how fast Pepper Smith was shoveling dirt--forehand and back--on top of her.
"I'll just remember this as the first time I ever beat Tracy. I've been thinking about a win like this for seven years. Now, I want to beat her more times," said Smith with a grin, pounding her fist on a table for mock emphasis. "Maybe people might just possibly think of me now as a singles player, too."
The happiest witness to Austin's demise was, doubtless, Shriver--Austin's arch rival. Before Austin took the court, Shriver's coach, Australian Don Candy, was already jokingly planning strategy. "We could try to get Tracy drunk the night before the match," said Candy. "I think Pammy could outdrink her."
Now, that won't be necessary.