Friends, partners and, tonight, opponents.
Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver, the two top seeds -- respectively in singles and collectively in doubles -- will face each other in the final of the Virginia Slims of Washington after each won semifinal matches yesterday at George Washington University's Smith Center.
Navratilova, the world's top-ranked player, defeated third-seeded Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, 7-5, 6-3, in the afternoon session and Shriver disposed of fourth-seeded Manuela Maleeva, 6-3, 6-4, last night.
After their singles final, which begins at 7 tonight, the pair will face the second-seeded team of Kohde-Kilsch and Helena Sukova in the doubles championship. Shriver and Navratilova reached the final by beating Anne White and Mary Lou Piatek, 6-2, 6-3.
Shriver, from Lutherville, Md., was presented a flower after her match then asked for her thoughts about her first "home" final and the fact that it came so early in the year.
"First since 14 and unders," she said, correcting him with a big smile. "It feels super. I just hope I haven't peaked."
The crowd of 4,800 ate it up like mom's home cooking.
Shriver said she is looking forward to the final because for the first time in the tournament, she isn't expected to win.
"It's one of those great matches where I can relax and go for my shot," said Shriver, who is ranked fourth. "I'm playing the No. 1 player in the world, I've gotten to where I'm supposed to go and I can let it all loose.
"The important thing is that I need to hold serve early. In the past, she's gotten an early break and we've held serve and she ends up winning, 6-4. But the points aren't going to be long."
Navratilova has won 22 of their 25 meetings, though two of Shriver's wins have been in big tournaments. She won in the semifinals of the 1978 U.S. Open and the quarterfinals of the 1982 U.S. Open.
She and Navratilova are the top-ranked doubles team in the world and Shriver said being Navratilova's partner makes it a bit easier to play her in singles.
"It's probably easier because I know her game," Shriver said. "I don't go out there afraid of her, though she can be frightening when she starts hitting passing shots and serving well."
Shriver then smiled. "I mean, I've seen her miss a few, too, but don't tell her I said that."
"Pam and I have a special rivalry," said Navratilova, "because we are close friends and do play doubles together . . . . We'll be friendly, but not too friendly. The first thing is to win."
Before their semifinal, Navratilova said one critical factor would be how well Kohde-Kilsch landed her powerful but sometimes erratic serve.
In her second-round win over Wendy Turnbull, Kohde-Kilsch double faulted 10 times. But yesterday she was excellent with her first serves, making 78 percent of them with nary a double fault.
But Navratilova, proving why she is on top looking down, served nearly as well (69 percent) and took advantage of Kohde-Kilsch's second serve.
"When she missed a couple first serves, that's when Martina broke her," said Mike Estep, Navratilova's coach. "That was the key to the match."
At break point in the fourth game, Navratilova came to the net after Kohde-Kilsch's second serve and made a lunging volley to win the game and go up, 3-1.
Navratilova was up, 5-2, before Kohde-Kilsch won three straight games. But with Kohde-Kilsch serving at 5-6, Navratilova scored with a forehand return, a cross-court backhand drop shot and won the set when she put a backhand shot right at the feet of Kohde-Kilsch, who put it right in the net.
"She's so tall (6-foot one-half inch), so the lower you can get it the better," said Navratilova. "It's a long way down for her."
There was only one break in the second set, and that put Navratilova up, 5-3, and effectively sealed her spot in the finals.
"I had good second serves," Kohde-Kilsch said, "but she hits good deep approach shots. And she puts pressure on you. She was little bit luckier than I was. At 5-6, she hit two passing shots on the line, and in the second set I had two good chances to break her and didn't."
Navratilova bristled a bit at the idea of luck being a deciding factor.
"She missed a couple first serves and that was unlucky," she said. "But those were all clean winners. They may have been on the line, but they were intended to be."
Shriver and Maleeva are, in many ways, a series of contrasts.
Shriver never shuts up on the court, though nearly all of her chatter is for the benefit of herself or anyone within a few feet. Maleeva says next to nothing, though once in a while she will let go with a squeaky sort of groan. Shriver is tall (5-11); Maleeva is shorter (5-6). Shriver is a serve-and-volleyer; Maleeva generally hugs the baseline.
Shriver broke out of a tough first set to win fairly easily over seventh-ranked Maleeva.
They were on serve until Shriver broke Maleeva for a 5-3 lead, and won the next seven games.
"It was interesting how that happened," Shriver said. "It wasn't until 4-1 (second set) that I realized it was seven straight. I was concentrating really well and everything was going together and it seemed like she got a little dejected. Any time she got any opportunity, I served a big, big, serve. Finally, the only game she ended up winning was when she came to the net."
Indeed, Maleeva, who said earlier in the week that she wants to become a more all-around player, won three straight games, to make it 5-4, by coming to the net. But it was a bit late for a comeback.
"I had so many chances and I couldn't make them," Maleeva said. "I could have broken her so many times. Then she broke me and it took me a while to start playing well again. My balls started being short and she attacked me . . . .
"I started coming to the net at the end of the second set, but it was too late. I guess I was just a little afraid in the beginning to come in after my serve, and I really shouldn't be afraid because I serve and volley well."