Until now, it has been a tournament in search of a drama. The withdrawals of Tracy Austin and Pam Shriver before the tournament began were bigger upsets than any that occurred in the early rounds.
Then, yesterday in the quarterfinals of the Virginia Slims of Washington, Sylvia Hanika, the sixth seed, undid Hana Mandlikova, the third seed, 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-2.
In part, Mandlikova was her own undoing. She had 13 double faults: five of them came at game point for Mandlikova; three gave Hanika a break point, one gave her a break, and the last gave her the match.
"I knew she would break down sometime because she always has ups and downs," said Hanika, who has now defeated her six times indoors. "I was just waiting."
Theirs was not the only upset. Mary Lou Piatek overwhelmed and outmaneuvered Barbara Potter, the fourth seed, 6-3, 6-4.
Potter said she moved poorly, "stumbling around the court." That probably was the result of Piatek's relentless passing shots and superb return of serve. Potter, whose serves and volleys are normally as impressive as her vocabulary, graciously conceded, "She played the scrappiest, most effective match of her career that I've witnessed. I would have had to play my best to beat her."
"She's probably right," said Piatek, who will meet Martina Navratilova, the No. 1 seed, in a semifinal this afternoon.
Navratilova did what was expected of her, and had little trouble doing it. She beat Czechoslovakia's Helena Sukova, whom she had never played before, 6-2, 6-1.
Sukova had break points against Navratilova only once in the match, in the second game. Navratilova, who really has not been tested this week, said she may look for a male practice partner Sunday if she wins her semifinal match today.
"I'm certainly not invincible," Navratilova said, smiling. "I'm not a saint, either. I am beatable. But it's going to take a lot to beat me at this point."
By contrast, Jaeger, once again, had a lot to contend with, this time in the person of JoAnne Russell. Jaeger, who won, 6-7 (7-9), 6-2, 6-2, will play Hanika tonight at Smith Center.
Russell, 28, said she has no desire to be Jaeger's age. She can do more now than she could when she was 17.
It was a strange and quirky first set. There were seven breaks. Russell, for example, led 2-0, on the strength of newly honed topspin groundstokes and a good return of serve.
But she squandered three break points in the next game and Jaeger was back in the set. Jaeger, who is now 5-1 lifetime against her, won four straight games.
Neither could hold serve. Jaeger could not take advantage of two break points, leading, 5-4. So after two more breaks, they went to the tie breaker. They were even at 3-3, 5-5, 6-6 and then 7-7, when a Russell moon ball (she tried everything) went wide.
Russell went ahead doing what comes naturally, with a good deep serve, and an unreturnable volley. Jaeger served the last point. Jaeger's overhead put the set away.
It may have put Russell away, too. "In the second, I was a little tired," she said. "In the third I wasn't. I was so mentally keen in the first set. Mentally, I went flat after that."
Jaeger got stronger, sharper, putting more pace on the ball. Her passing shots improved along with her demeanor.
Mandlikova is as ethereal as Hanika is solid. The shots are there, and then they are gone. Last night, her serve abandoned her: nine times she double-faulted in the first set alone. When she got the chance, Hanika pounced on the second serve, pounding out winners
Mandlikova struggled throughout. It took her 22 points to hold serve, for example, in the fifth game of the first set. She saved five break points along the way, her sheer athleticism bailing her out of her errors. She saved four break points in the 11th game, before holding to force the tie-breaker.
Again she struggled. A 6-3 lead dwindled, when Hanika served two service winners. She planted herself at the net, and aimed three volleys at her, the third a diving backhand. Mandlikova netted the third of them with a backhand and it was 6-6. For once, Hanika did little with a second serve, netting it, and Mandlikova went ahead, 7-6. A forehand passing shot down the line gave her the set. She cried, "Yup."
Things changed irrevocably midway through the second set. It was then, Mandlikova said, that someone associated with Hanika tapped her on the shoulder and handed her a piece of paper. Her concentration evaporated and so did a 4-2 lead. Hanika held and then broke, to make it 4-3 with a backhand cross-court return of serve and a backhand pass. She served out a love game to take the lead at 5-4.
She broke again in the 12th game to take the set, as Mandlikova's woes and errors mounted. Mandlikova served with Hanika leading, 3-2, in the third. She double-faulted to make it 0-40 and clutched at her throat, an understandable gesture.
The match ended with her 13th double fault. It was the only way.