Buried under 19 other names with much greater marquee appeal in the draw for the 1986 Virginia Slims of Washington is that of Sabrina Goles.
She is one of seven singles players who advanced from the qualifying competition that has gone on since Friday at the McLean Racquet and Health Club. The tournament begins today at George Washington University's Smith Center.
Martina Navratilova is long past qualifiers, and the world's top-ranked player will be the No. 1 seed in the tournament for the second year in a row. Her first step toward the $27,000 first prize -- she has won more than $10 million over her career -- is a first-round match Wednesday against Pam Casale, who is ranked 34th. Second-seeded and fourth-ranked Pam Shriver of Lutherville, Md., will take on Sylvia Hanika in the first round Tuesday.
Shriver and Navratilova will be a team in the doubles competition, which begins tonight with their evening match against Lori McNeil and Catherine Suire. Goles will help get the tournament under way when she plays Caroline Kuhlman at 10 a.m. today in one of four morning singles matches.
There will be two sessions today and through the week, leading to the championship finals next Monday.
Originally, there were to be only four players from the qualifying tournament who would move to the main draw. But three players, who originally were entered and did not have to qualify, withdrew from the tournament: No. 18 Stephanie Rehe, who bowed out because of an ingrown toenail that failed to heal in time; No. 19 Kathy Jordan, who will play only doubles; and No. 31 Eva Pfaff, who has a sore knee.
It is a bit ironic that Goles will play the tournament's first match. It was a year ago, at this same tournament, that Goles played in her last qualifier. Whether one has to go through the qualifier is determined by one's rank. It varies at each tournament, but there is a cutoff mark, below which one has to qualify for the main draw. This tournament's cutoff point is 35, which Goles said is very high, and points to the strength of the field.
But, obviously, having to qualify is not something anyone relishes.
Goles, a 20-year-old from Zagreb, Yugoslavia, shook her head and smiled at the suggestion that qualifying is part of the less-glamorous side of pro tennis.
"It sure is," she said. "Most of the girls here are in it a lot. There's not much prize money, and there is so much pressure to win because these are the girls that make a lot less money than others. We play on these courts, and there's not as many people watching. It's much different.
"All the girls here are so eager to win. In the main draw, sometimes you get some players that are tired and are not very tough. But the qualifier is always tough."
Playing qualifiers consistently can be disheartening if there's too much time between wins.
"It was really bad," Goles said. "Two years ago I was playing them constantly, and I was going to quit after two months. . . . It was win one, lose twice. If you can put up with this, you can put up with anything."
Losing never is fun, but it can be a bit more discouraging when it occurs in the qualifier because of the gap of time before the next tournament.
"You start thinking, 'Oh, what am I doing?' " Goles said. "It's really bad then. It gets a little depressing because you have too much time to think about the losses."
Goles is ranked 54th, and, like everybody else who has to show up four or five days early to a tournament, looks forward to the day when she can arrive the morning of her first match, as Navratilova, for one, is doing.
"You always hope. I was 27th at one point, and I was sure I was never going to play another qualifier," Goles said with a laugh. "But then I had a few bad months and now I'm playing them again. So I guess you're never sure."