Obviously, Andrea Jaeger has no sense of history.
Cooly and relentlessly today, she ended Billie Jean King's dream of winning Wimbledon again. Perhaps forever.
As they left Centre Court together, Jaeger looked ahead. King looked around. "I took a last look, in case," said King. "I never looked back over my shoulder before. Today, I looked all around it."
King, who has won six Wimbledon singles titles, 20 titles in all, has earned the right to be on a first-name basis with posterity. She is 39. Jaeger, who is 18, was too good, too young and too tough for her today. She won, 6-1, 6-1, and earned the right to meet Martina Navratilova in the final Saturday. She has not beaten Navratilova in two years and has won only four of 14 lifetime matches against her.
Navratilova, the defending champion, has played so well and won so easily that she has been taken for granted, just as her victory over unseeded Yvonne Vermaak was taken for granted today. Vermaak extended Navratilova all of 36 minutes before losing, 6-1, 6-1. The only thing briefer than the match was Vermaak's explanation. "She's good," Vermaak said in the understatement of the fortnight.
Navratilova was broken at love in the first game of the match. Vermaak was broken thereafter. She won only 11 points in the first set, 16 in the second (when she held her serve once). She won 27 points to Navratilova's 53.
Statistics do not sufficiently describe Navratilova's domination. It has taken her only 4 hours 35 minutes to reach her fourth Wimbledon final (she has won the other three).
Those who expected her to say she wished it had been harder were disappointed. "I'll take it anytime," she said.
Navratilova says her doubles matches with Pam Shriver have kept her sharp. "Yesterday, we had a tight doubles match," she said of their match with Mima Jausovec and Kathy Jordan, which went to three sets before Navratilova and Shriver won. "Pam was saying it's good for me because I hadn't been in that situation in singles."
King had been in that situation, surviving a rugged first-round match against Beth Herr, whom she said should have won. Jaeger, conscious of how many matches King had played, and her age, was determined to make her run, to mix her passing shots with topspin lobs.
She did both to perfection. When, late in the first set, Jaeger scrambled to reach a drop shot to stay in a point that should have ended right there, King must have known she was in trouble. Jaeger, third seeded here and third in the rankings, was everywhere.
King said it was probably the worst singles match she has ever played on Centre Court and she has played 50 of them (101 matches there altogether). It was also her worst defeat at Wimbledon (she lost 6-1, 6-2 to Evert in the quarterfinals in 1977). "I couldn't do one thing I wanted," she said.
Jaeger wouldn't let her. King was nervous ("because I had a chance"), Jaeger was nonchalant. "You can make a big deal about it when you win Wimbledon," said Jaeger, who has never before gained the final, "not when you get to the semifinals."
Jaeger passed too well and returned serve even better (eight for winners) and broke King's serve in the first game of the match.
King missed too many first serves (six in the first game) and often was forced to stay back and play Jaeger's game. Twice she double faulted to give Jaeger break points, in the first game of the match and in the last game of the first set.
Both times she saved a break point before ultimately losing the game. Twice in the first set and once as Jaeger served for the match in the second, she had break points and could not do anything about them. "I hit shots I thought were great and they went three feet out," she said.
Twice on break points against her, she was saved by let cord winners, seemingly the only things that went her way all day. Jaeger looked up at a friend in the stands and laughed. One came on the first set point in the first set. But on the next point, King hit a forehand long, one of many forehand errors, and Jaeger had a set point again. A forehand return down the line gave her the first set, 6-1.
Those who waited for King to regroup in the second waited in vain. Jaeger held at love in the first game, pushed King hard in the second, when King saved three points. She broke the next time she had a chance, in the fourth game. A backhand return winner down the line (again) gave her a break point.
King missed another first serve and stayed back, falling into Jaeger's rhythm. Back and forth, side to side, Jaeger moved her, until a forehand pulled King so wide that it forced a weak backhand and Jaeger put away a smash.
Jaeger then led, 3-1. She held at love in the next game as King's errors mounted. "Shocking," King muttered.
And it was. But Jaeger didn't wilt, except maybe for an instant when she served for the match at 5-1, and made a backhand error long, to give King a break point. But a forehand cross court pass brought it to deuce and an ace gave her match point.
All week King talked about how important it is for young players to learn the history of tennis, to know about the greats the way baseball fans know about Ty Cobb. Jaeger is too young to remember King at her best.
"I wasn't here when she won her big events," Jaeger said. "When Wimbledon was on TV, I was outside goofing off."
Those who waited for Jaeger to give in to intimidation waited in vain. In the locker room, when King talks, Jaeger doesn't listen.
"Sometimes, you're in there four hours and you're hearing her talk the whole time and you think, 'Boy, I have to play Billie Jean.' Hearing her talk for four hours gets to you. It makes you realize that on the court you're playing Billie Jean King. If she can take advantage of it, she will."
King swears she doesn't do anything to psych out her opponents. She doesn't have to: her record does it for her. But it wasn't enough today.
When it ended, the crowd was subdued. "Maybe they think I was making my exit," King said. "I haven't had time to be sentimental. Maybe later, I will."
As they left the court, King's place in history secure, she reminded Jaeger to curtsy. Jaeger bowed to royalty but not to sentiment. "She's been there plenty," she said. "I might never get there again. I might as well take my chance."
King had nothing else to say. "I don't think she wants to talk to me for a little while," Jaeger said.