Martina Navratilova, her hopes of winning the Australian Open gone, predicted today that longtime rival Chris Evert Lloyd would do what she could not: stop Helena Sukova.
Navratilova had been expected to be in the final, trying for the 100th tournament victory of her career. But in today's semifinals, Sukova, 19 and seeded ninth, upset Navratilova, 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.
In a men's semifinal Friday, defending champion Mats Wilander ripped past Johan Kriek, 6-1, 6-0, 6-2, in 66 minutes. In the second set Kriek won only 10 points and he did not hold serve until the fifth game of the third set.
Wilander will play the winner of Friday's match between ninth-seeded Kevin Curren and unseeded Ben Testerman in the final Sunday. Wilander will be trying for his third grand slam title.
Navratilova's loss ended her chance for a seventh straight championship of a grand slam tournament.
"It hurts but I'll get over it," Navratilova said. "I still have two arms, two legs and a heart."
Sukova's victory halted Navratilova's 74-match winning streak. Navratilova was last beaten in Oakland, Calif., last January by Hana Mandlikova.
Evert, seeking her second Australian Open title and hoping to stretch her streak of annual Grand Slam victories to 11 years, moved into the final with a 6-3, 6-3 sweep of Wendy Turnbull. Evert took control of the match by winning six straight games with the score tied at three games each in the first set.
"I know this is my last shot (at a Grand Slam event) for the year," Evert said. "But I don't want to put pressure on myself."
Asked to pick a winner in Saturday's women's final at Kooyong, Navratilova said, "I would have to go with Chris. I would be surprised (if Sukova won), not just because Chris is a better player but simply because I think she (Sukova) will have a letdown.
"I think Chris will beat her with a lob. I don't think I lobbed her enough."
Looking back at her loss to Sukova, Navratilova said, "The pressure was there, especially when I knew I had to hold serve from love-15, 5-all in the final set. I thought that the pressure might get to Helena, too, because she has never reached this stage of a Grand Slam event before.
"But I don't think the pressure is the reason I lost. I've been under tremendous pressure for a long time, so it's just one of those matches when I didn't make the shots I could have made."
The first two sets were one-sided, but the final turned dramatic when Sukova broke Navratilova in the first and third games to lead, 3-0. Navratilova then rallied to tie, 4-4, with a brilliant stretching forehand on the run to break Sukova. But the challenger recovered to break and go ahead, 6-5.
Navratilova saved three match points with hard-hit winners, but finally bowed out when she hit a forehand service return wide.
"I always get excited when I get close to losing, but I have been able to come through in most three-set matches this year," Navratilova said. "I made a great comeback but I didn't quite finish it off."
Sukova said, "I think the key was I returned Martina's serve really well. During this whole tournament, I was trying to play my matches calmly and cool and trying to concentrate on every point, and I think it has helped me a lot. I really didn't get nervous or anything."