Martina Navratilova remembers feeling that she could not get out of her chair, pushing herself up with her arms because her legs wouldn't work. Pam Shriver remembers the last point that ended Navratilova's 1982 U.S. Open.
Now, they meet again in the semifinals on Friday. "Now Martina, Miss Wall," said Don Candy, Shriver's coach. "Miss Wall is going to take a bit of moving."
Since that day a year ago, Navratilova has lost two matches. Shriver has not taken a set from her in a year. Still, Shriver said, "she doesn't have very good memories of me here."
"That was a year and 100 matches ago," Navratilova said. "Not to worry."
The Open occupies a special place for each of them: for Shriver because she introduced herself to the world by reaching the final in 1978 against Chris Evert Lloyd; for Navratilova because she has never won.
One's high is the other's low. "I think the place where you make yourself known for the first time worldwide the way I did in 1978, it always remains special," Shriver said. "I've seen both sides. I've had the greatest feelings you could have with the win over Martina and then I've had the worst losing to a qualifier in the first round on Court 7 (to Julie Harrington in 1979)."
Navratilova defected to the United States in the middle of the 1975 Open and she lost to Evert in the semis. A year later, she lost in the first round to Janet Newberry. She was a pudgy, emotional 167-pound junk-food addict with 21 percent body fat adrift in a new-found world.
In 1981, she lost to Tracy Austin in the final and cried, not just because she lost, but because of the standing ovation that told her she was finally one of them.
This year, she is staying at a rented house in Douglaston eating her nutritionally correct diet, practicing at courts away from the hustle and bustle of the Open. Shriver, who is ranked fifth, is staying downtown. Though she no longer takes the subway to the matches, she still eats breakfast every morning at her favorite delicatessen. But she has given up the orange juice, diet soda and tuna fish breakfasts in favor of something more reasonable like raisin bran.
The city agrees with her. "I don't know whether my personality is similar or what," she said. "The city's alive. I don't ever remember being bored in New York."
For Navratilova, "It is the energy of the people. They are a different breed," though she says she couldn't be here 52 weeks a year.
On court, they are in sync, too, the No. 1-seeded doubles team. It does not affect their rivalry, they say. "We're both professionals . . . " Shriver said, laughing. "But you want to play well in doubles so she'll think you are playing great and get scared."
"I'm not going to try to hit her from behind in doubles," Navratilova said. "I'm not shaking in my boots because I lost to her last year. As far as strategy, I have to get to the net before she does. She has a hard time passing me and I have a hard time passing her. It's going to be a footrace to the net."