Badgered all week by suggestions that she might finish the year ranked lower than No. 1, Martina Navratilova erased all the doubts tonight as she beat Chris Evert Lloyd, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, in the $300,000 Toyota Championship.
"She's No. 1 now," Evert said. "I concede--but not next year."
Navratilova won the first game, then watched Evert take the next two. Evert, who had said earlier the indoor surface might favor Navratilova, rarely went to the net as Navratilova made 14 errors -- four on the forehand, 10 on the backhand -- in the first set.
"I know she's putting a lot more top spin on her forehand, but it's not as lethal as it was before," Evert said. "She is working on her backhand, which is why, I guess. But she just didn't seem to be hitting as many winners on the forehand."
Evert thought the first couple of games were "very close. It could have been three-love either way." But she said that Navratilova seemed overanxious in going to the net. "She played the big points there better than I did, but she was maybe anxious about it."
Navratilova had beaten Evert twice in their three 1982 meetings and was determined to win this last match of the year. "I didn't want there to be any question about who was No. 1," she said. "Now there should be no question."
In the first set, Navratilova, anxious to take command, was unable to break Evert's serve. In the fourth and sixth games, Navratilova didn't even get one point, rushing the net and growing visibly annoyed with her play.
By the ninth game of that set, Navratilova's net game was back to form, when she held off three set points and won the game, before Evert shut her out a game later.
In the second set, she moved ahead with a 3-0 edge. Earlier Navratilova had said the Sporteze surface at the Meadowlands Arena was her "favorite" and she had looked forward to "good bounces and clean breaks."
By the fourth game of the middle set, the bounces were all her way, as she held serve easily and her 5-0 advantage demonstrated how the match had turned around.
In the third set, Navratilova broke Evert's first two serves, charging ahead 3-0 and playing what she later called "technical, strategic" tennis, with superb volleys and sharp ground strokes.
Navratilova said she tried to relax more for the last two sets and "to let her know I would stay out there as long as I had to.
"She hit a lot of shots to my forehand. I stayed with her on the long volleys, I ran the ball and just stayed there."
"When it came to the third set, I was thinking, this is a winner take all, and I came out right on top."
Evert, whose total first serve percentage was 82 percent, called the first game of the second set "huge, and I didn't continue to play the way I had in the first set.
"Maybe I let up just a touch, but you can get away with that with any player except Martina. With Martina, she plays best when she's ahead. All I wanted to do was stay even or ahead of her," she said.
"Maybe there was a little doubt and that starts (you) swaying the other way."
Despite ongoing discussions of this match as the deciding factor for her overall ranking, Navratilova said she felt primed, not nervous today.
"Last year in this match, all I ate was a bowl of Rice Krispies," she said.
"Today, huge meals. Waffles, oatmeal, croissants for breakfast. Pasta -- a whole bowl -- for lunch, bread, orange juice, apple juice. I was hungry and just ate. I ate like a fighter."
Navratilova likened the match to a heavyweight bout later, adding, "I've never been so sound."
Navratilova, able to shut out Evert completely in the fifth game of the final set, held her to one point in the following one for a 5-1 lead, and was poised to wrap up the evening and the year.
But Evert--"she was the underdog, for a change," Navratilova said wryly--wasn't about to fold and through a long, strong rally, came back to win the seventh game. The crowd of 9,248 seemed pro-Evert, yelling with delight each time she earned a point.
In the end, though, Navratilova, who has been ranked No. 1 on the computer since last January, reached a little harder and put to rest any of Evert's chances to seize the top.
"I didn't feel she (Evert) was growing tired or slowing down," she said. "But I stuck with my strategy ." Strategically, Navratilova said this was "definitely" the best match she's played.
"At the end I was thinking, it's such a big match, and then in two weeks, all the hard work, everything starts all over again," she said, laughing a little. "But I can rest on my laurels a week. And I'm ready to do it again. I won't settle for anything less."
Nastase-Hamptons: At North Miami Beach, Fla., Jimmy Connors, the top seed, cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded Brian Teacher to win the inaugural $300,000 event.
Connors, the 1982 U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion, used accurate ground strokes and needed only 90 minutes to sweep by Teacher. Connors quickly moved to a 4-1 lead in the first set.
Each player held service for the next two games and Connors gained a break to win the set, 6-2, with the final point coming on a Connors service return that bounced near Teacher's feet as he charged the net.
Connors, of nearby Miami Beach, moved fast in the second set, gained a 2-1 lead then swept quickly through the final set.
Connors, the world's No. 2 player behind John McEnroe in the Association of Tennis Professional rankings, earned $80,000 first prize for the victory. Teacher collected $40,000.
New South Wales Open: In Sydney, Australian Davis Cup veteran John Alexander won his first major Australian tennis title when he beat his doubles partner, John Fitzgerald, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 in the men's final of the $125,000 tournament.
The 31-year-old Alexander, runner-up in Grand Prix events on more than 20 occasions, prevailed after saving a match point during a tie breaker in the second set. Alexander's forehand volley on Fitzgerald's match point hit the two-inch tape on top of the net and caromed away from Fitzgerald's reach, but landed in court.
Hartford Open: Ivan Lendl defeated Bill Scanlon, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5, to win the $100,000 top prize in Hartford, Conn.
Lendl had reached the finals by defeating Brad Gilbert of Piedmont, Calif. in the first round, Jose-Luis Damiani of Uraguay in the quarterfinals and Balazs Taroczy of Hungary in the semifinals.
Lendl, who was the top-seeded among the 16 entries at the Hartford Civic Center, has not lost a World Championship Tennis tournament all year.
Scanlon, who took second place in the Hartford Open, won $40,000. The total purse was $300,000.