When Kathy Jordan found out last week Martina Navratilova had finally lost, beaten in the Australian Open tennis semifinals by Helena Sukova, she says she felt good about it.

"I was just kind of happy to see it happen," she said a couple of days ago, sipping a cup of tea. "The way she'd been dominating sort of made the rest of us look like a bunch of dogs. It can't be good for the sport when people are reduced to talking about how many minutes it takes for a player to win or how many games she's losing in a tournament."

Kathy Jordan has become the No. 7 women's tennis player in the world (No. 5 until missing the Australian) and one of a handful of players who can give Navratilova a tough match.

Jordan, Navratilova and six other women ranked in the world's top 10 are entered to begin the 1985 tour by playing in the $150,000 Virginia Slims of Washington tournament at George Washington University's Smith Center Jan. 7-14.

Jordan was here to help promote the event, something she points out women tennis stars still have to do in an era when most men can't -- or won't -- be bothered.

"Women have to work harder to get attention in all sports," Jordan said. "I think it's just a natural thing for people to be more interested in men's sports. The men (in tennis), I think, tend to be a little more arrogant than the women. The women stick together more because they know they have to for the tour to be a success."

And, Jordan concedes, one of the things that would help women's tennis would be more balance at the top. The perception of the women's game recently has been simple: Navratilova is No. 1, Chris Evert Lloyd No. 2 and then everyone else.

Jordan doesn't dispute this, but thinks and hopes that might change soon.

"There's no question it would help us if some 'new names' came along and started beating Martina and Chris," she said. "The men aren't as different from us as it seems, though.

"It's just that even a guy who isn't very good will only lose to (John) McEnroe or (Jimmy) Connors by, like 4 and 4 (6-4, 6-4), because he'll win a few games with a big serve. Women don't have that weapon, so the scores are more lopsided and people say someone like Martina is completely dominant. Well, McEnroe only lost two matches all year for the men. What's the difference?"

The difference is image.

"The image the women's game has now could be better," Jordan said. "I'm not sure it's fair but a lot of people look at Martina and think of her as being somewhat masculine and then people think the only way you can be No. 1 these days is to be that way.

"I think there's a tendency for the media to sneer at women's tennis. Before I beat Chris at Wimbledon (in 1983), everyone was saying it was going to be Martina and Chris in the final again and that was so boring and all that. Then, when I beat her, everyone said that now there was no way Martina could possibly lose and that was so boring . . . "

Jordan shrugged. "You really can't win."

Jordan, the No. 5 seed for the tournament here, was runner-up in the Australian Open to end 1983, reached the semifinals at Wimbledon and beat Evert to reach the final at Eastbourne. That, combined with continued excellence in doubles (she and Anne Smith have won all four Grand Slam titles), earned her the women's most improved player award as she won $162,478 in singles.

Recently, Jordan, 25, has been sidelined by a stress fracture in a foot but she is back practicing, hoping to raise her game that extra notch in 1985. Because she is young, 5 feet 8 and plays serve-and-volley, many in tennis think she is capable of challenging Navratilova and Evert.

"For a long time I just wasn't that disciplined about my game," she said. "It wasn't like I was messing around with it, but I just wasn't as serious as I could be . . . Look at Chris: she's proof that you don't have to be the best athlete or the biggest or the fastest or hit the hardest to win. Chris never loses. You have to beat her.

"I've really worked to get better at that kind of discipline. I think that's why I've improved."