It's a brand new year, but don't expect anything too new at the top of women's tennis. It looks like another year of Chris and Martina, then everybody else who swings a racket for pay.
"I think it would be difficult for anybody else to be No. 1 or No. 2 this year," said Pam Shriver, who is No. 4, "because there's so much room on the computer between Martina and Chris and everybody else."
Martina Navratilova was in the top spot at the end of the year, according to the Women's Tennis Association's all-knowing computer, and she, Shriver and 30 other women will open 1986 by competing in the Virginia Slims of Washington tournament that will begin Monday at George Washington University's Smith Center and continue through Jan. 13.
Navratilova, who finished 1985 with a 90-5 record and 12 singles championships, is the tournament's top seed. Shriver is second.
"What we -- and by we I mean the four or five in back of them -- are looking more toward is breaking through and winning that one tournament that could change a career, and those tournaments, of course, would be a Wimbledon or a U.S. Open," said Shriver, whose best singles finish in a Grand Slam event was at the 1978 U.S. Open, when she made it to the final.
Wendy Turnbull, who at 33 is still in the top 20, agreed with Shriver.
"I think the top two will remain the same, myself," said Turnbull, who reached her peak in March 1979 when she was ranked fourth in the world. "Martina and Chris (Evert Lloyd) have such good records and have been so consistent over I don't know how many years. The others below them don't have that consistency. I can't see anyone doing that. Someone may, but it would take a lot to push those two out of either position."
Bonnie Gadusek is No. 10, and she, too, thinks the two veterans are entrenched, at least for this year.
"I think Martina and Chris are improving their game with everyone else," said Gadusek, the eighth seed in the Virginia Slims tournament.
Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, ranked fifth on the computer and seeded third here, beat Navratilova in the Canadian Open but she, too, said the consistency is not there yet.
"They'll probably continue to dominate," she told Tennis magazine. "It's not enough for me to beat one of them now and then. I have to beat them more often to be considered one of the best."
Shriver originally was not going to play in this tournament. She took about two months off at the beginning of 1985 and came back refreshed and healthier physically. She had planned to take a break but, two months ago, it looked as though the field for the tournament would not be that strong and officials asked her to play, she said.
"Then Martina decided to come, and throw in (Helena) Sukova and Kohde-Kilsch, who has improved a lot, along with the usual base-line corps of young Americans," Shriver said, "and all of a sudden, it's a strong tournament.
"I feel like I should play Washington because it's so close to home," said Shriver, who lives in the Baltimore suburb of Lutherville. But the break a year ago was very beneficial, she said, and if this year doesn't go that smoothly, she will have to make sure there is more of a break than the time she's taken off since returning from Australia in December.
And although Shriver knows what to expect from Navratilova and Evert over the course of a year, she believes there are smaller battles that can be won.
"All of us challenged them at one time or another last year," Shriver said. "There are a lot who feel that, on any given day, if they play the best they can, they can beat one of them. Whether it happens in the first tournament, I don't know, but then, Martina had two weeks vacation, too."