Two days before Wimbledon began, Chris Evert Lloyd was holding forth on a practice court outside the stadium. Former admirers Jimmy Connors and Trey Waltke stopped to admire her form.
Without looking their way, she sensed their presence. Her passing shots became that much more emphatic. A vintage two-handed backhand passing shot left her husband, John Lloyd, standing flat-footed and glum at the net.
The same sort of passing shots left Alycia Moulton feeling glum and flat-footed today. Well, Evert said, after winning, 6-2, 6-1, in 57 minutes, the first game was a long one.
Defending champion Martina Navratilova made even quicker work of South Africa's Beverly Mould, dismissing her in 38 minutes, 6-1, 6-0. Mould won the first game and no more; at 4-1 in the first set, she had a break point. Navratilova won the next 15 points and 53 of 72.
The tournament began with 128 women in the draw. Some might argue that there are really only two of consequence, but, "That's what they were saying at the French, too," Navratilova said ruefully.
Still, the other day, when Evert was asked if she saw any serious threats to the two of them, she said, "I'm sorry, I don't."
Today, she added, "I'm not saying it critically of the other women. I'm saying it complimenting Martina. I don't say the others can't play tennis."
When they play tennis. Tracy Austin, No. 4 seed, withdrew--as did former champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley--because of a pulled muscle in her right shoulder.
Bettina Bunge, No. 6 seed, lost to Christiane Jolissaint, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 11-9, squandering three match points at 6-5 in the second set. Andrea Jaeger, No. 3 seed, won, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5), over Susan Rimes but fell on her thumb diving for a volley and spent the afternoon icing it. But she pronounced her sore knee intact. "I usually ice it but I had ice on my hand and used up all the ice," she said.
Last year, when Navratilova won the French Open and then Wimbledon, all the talk was of a potential Grand Slam. Then Evert won the U.S. Open, beat Navratilova on grass to win the Australian Open and won the French Open two weeks ago on clay. Though Navratilova has lost only once in 1983, to Kathy Horvath at the French, and has beaten Evert twice this year, it is Evert who came into this tournament with a chance for the slam. Only two have won it: Maureen Connolly in 1953 and Margaret Smith Court in 1970.
Purists say a slam is not a slam unless all four major tournaments are won in a calendar year, But the International Tennis Federation changed the rule last fall, saying four in succession will do, and added a $1 million prize for anyone who can claim it. According to the new rule, Evert will get credit for the slam if she wins here but will not get the money because of the timing of the rule change. The slam is better than $10 million, she says.
But she claims she isn't thinking about it because it makes her nervous. She says she isn't thinking ahead to a possible final confrontation with Navratilova, which she admits "everybody wants to see." It has always been her ablility to think only about what is at hand--the next match, the next round--that has been her strength.
Evert and Navratilova are fascinating foils, opposites in so many ways. Evert has the ground strokes and the best return of serve; Navratilova the best serve and volley. Evert has a 31-21 lead in the rivalry lifetime; Navratilova has won five of their last six matches. Evert has a fraction of the physical blessings at Navratilova's command but has the acceptance Navratilova desires. And no one questions her mental toughness the way people still question Navratilova's.
"I still don't consider her as mentally tough as Tracy or Billie Jean (King)," Evert said. "She's the best athlete."
And so Navratilova has gotten all the attention this year. "I'd rather quietly be in the background," Evert said. "All the attention and focus scare me a little."
In more ways than one: attention creates expectation and sometimes havoc. Last year, just about the time Evert was winning the Australian Open, published stories began to surface in gossip columns linking her with a former British rock star. Travel can cause strains in a marriage.
"You grow and you change and sometimes you go through growing pains," she said. "We're okay. He's okay. I'm okay."
She says she has found some inner peace and learned a lot about herself this year. Her husband concurs. "I think she has spent a bit more time looking at herself rather than hitting tennis balls over the net," he said. "It gives her more depth."
And with depth comes acceptance of the way she is and the way she is seen.
"I'm not just a machine that hits balls," she says. "Just one thing always bothered me: my cold image on court. I've learned to accept it. I am a competitor, I am ruthless. People that know me know I'm not that way off the court."
And with the incessant questions about when she will retire, questions that seem to imply enough is enough now that she's 28 and won three Wimbledons, six U.S. Opens, five French Opens and one Australian Open.
"I'm never the one to bring up retiring or even easing up," she says. "I love the pace I'm going at now. I don't live tennis. Maybe I used to but I don't now. I play less than most of the top players, enough to get in great shape. I love it. I'm enjoying it. I've never been a planner. I never look ahead. In six months I could quit. In five years I could quit. I haven't a clue."
Hardly the ruthless, calculating approach.
Among the other seeded women's players, No. 5 Pam Shriver defeated Patty Fendick, 6-2, 6-2; No. 7 Wendy Turnbull defeated Dianne Fromholtz, 6-1, 6-1; No. 8 Hana Mandlikova beat Rina Einy, 7-5, 6-3, and No. 9 Sylvia Hanika beat Beverley Bowes, 6-3, 6-2.
In men's play, Ivan Lendl, the No. 3 seed, survived his first test on grass, against Bernie Mitton, a good grass player, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1, 6-0. Lendl, who stayed away last year because of an allergy to grass and who lost in the first round two years ago, didn't sneeze once. He was tested only in the first set and a relatively easy victory may give him the confidence he needs to win on this surface.
Vitas Gerulaitis, the eighth seed, was extended to five sets by Ramesh Krishnan, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-3. Krishman pressed him with pinpoint passing shots. But in the sixth game of the final set Gerulaitis exerted himself with a backhand winner on a return of serve, a pure reflex that gave him a break point. Krishnan volleyed a backhand long to give Gerulaitis the break.
Johan Kriek, seeded 11th, beat Sammy Giammalva, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Fifth seeded Mats Wilander and John Fitzgerald of Australia were tied in the fifth set when darkness halted their match.