To watch Martina Navratilova this week was to watch an athlete in the bloom of domination. It took her only 45 minutes last night to beat Sylvia Hanika in the final of the Virginia Slims of Washington, under four hours to win five matches this week. Hanika held her serve only twice. She had a break point against Navratilova once. She lost, 6-1, 6-1.
Navratilova's serve was deep and accurate (81 percent of first serves), her passing shots precise. Her volleys were angular and her humor intact. "I guess it's a good thing the Redskins won," she told the 9,853 people at Capital Centre.
"Of course, you know I'm a Cowboys' fan."
Boos. "Otherwise, the whole city of Washington would be in mourning and nobody would have come."
Later, someone asked if she was as overpowering as the Redskins were on Saturday. "The Redskins were outgained in the first half," she said, severely. "But they were on top. I didn't make any turnovers. I was as overpowering as the Cowboys were in the last five minutes."
Navratilova, who was officially named the No. 1 player of 1982 by the United States Tennis Association yesterday, won $28,000 and the first tournament of the year, just as she did last year. She has won 95 of the last 98 matches she has played. Hanika, the sixth seed, the 10th-ranked player, earned $14,000 and a renewed respect for Navratilova in the the tournament, which attracted 41,355 over a week.
Navratilova and Pam Shriver defeated Anne Smith and Kathy Jordan, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, for the doubles title.
Hanika defeated Navratilova last March in the final of the Avon Championships, the first of Navratilova's three losses in 1982. Both said there was probably more pressure on Hanika because of that. "I played pretty poorly today," Hanika said.
"I really don't know why. I just couldn't hit the ball. I was trying to do better and better. I thought, my God, all the people came . . . I'm doing so bad. I think mentally, I was a little tired out from the matches before."
Hanika, who eliminated Andrea Jaeger and Hana Mandlikova, the second and third seeds, made 28 unforced errors. Navratilova made only 10.
She mixed up her game--she came in, stayed back. She hit more to Hanika's forehand and did not allow her backhand "to get grooved" as it did in the Avon Championships.
Navratilova broke Hanika the first time she served (a game in which she missed three first serves and had three unforced errors) and was ahead, 3-0, nine minutes into the match. Twice in the set, Navratilova held at love and gave up only three points on her serve in the set.
In the second set, Hanika did what any sensible person would do. She began to attack more, coming in behind her serve.
But she was broken again in the first game of the set.
The next time she served, Hanika was more aggressive--winning her strongest service game of the match with a forehand drop volley. Navratilova served at 2-1. It was at this moment last March that she began to lose by "trying to play safe. I was thinking 3-1 (then), letting her back in the match. Today, I won it at love."
She won the next game at love, too. When she hit a blissful backhand winner down the line, making it love-30, she banged her hand against her racket with appreciation and adrenaline. Hanika hit a forehand long to give Navratilova a break point. A strong forehand down the line pulled Hanika wide. She lobbed weakly. Navratilova's overhead was overwhelming.
She weakened for just a moment in the sixth game. Hanika actually had a break point. It was the only threat in the match, in a week that was never threatening.
It was a week to witness an athlete who has come into her own. Navratilova said she could not recall a week where every single match was this easy. Was she invincible?
"No," she said, laughing. "I know I'm human. I hope. Every dog has his day. The hard work helps in avoiding those bad days."
"So even when you're not at the top of your game, you can still squeeze by. Some day, somebody can't do anything wrong and I can't do anything right. Today it was the other way."
You're not sweating, someone remarked. "I don't sweat," she said. "Ask anyone in the locker room. No one sweats less than I."
This week, for sure.