Pam Shriver tried to hide her frustration and disappointment behind a joke. She was successful, sort of.
"It's been 3 1/2 years since I've beaten Martina. I've forgotten what it's like," Shriver said to the partisan Smith Center crowd after she lost to Martina Navratilova in last night's singles final of the Virginia Slims of Washington.
"I guess as long as we keep playing doubles together, it makes losing to her a little easier," she said with Navratilova standing nearby, listening, waiting to collect her bounty. Then, directing her kidding to Navratilova, she added, "So, if you do drop me as a doubles partner, I'm going to start beating the heck out of you."
The sellout crowd of 5,000 laughed heartily at the remarks from the 23-year-old from Lutherville, Md., and Shriver smiled, but when she stepped away from the microphone, the smile was gone. She had lost to Navratilova for the 13th straight time -- this one read 6-1, 6-4 -- and it didn't feel so great.
Navratilova graciously accepted her $27,000 first prize for winning the tournament, a feat she's now accomplished eight times. And then she graciously said she would keep Shriver as part of their top-ranked doubles team.
"I know she had high hopes, with this sort of a home crowd," Navratilova told the masses. "It's hard to play Pam because we do play together, but then you realize it's better to win than to lose. And, yes, I'll keep playing doubles with you."
They did play doubles together just a few minutes later. Navratilova, who won both singles and doubles last year, did it again, as she and Shriver defeated the second-seeded team of Claudia Kohde-Kilsch and Helena Sukova, 6-3, 6-4.
And winning was really what this whole week of tennis was all about. Friends or no friends.
Navratilova served to open the match and Shriver won the first point when her backhand passing shot hit the cord and bounced high past Navratilova, who was in position at the net.
"I looked over, and she's going like this shaking her fists instead of saying she was sorry. And I thought she should have been sorry she hit that ball," Navratilova said, half-joking. "So, I said, 'Okay. I can go either way. If she means business, I'll get down to business,' and I went from there."
Said Shriver, "Sometimes if you hit a lucky shot, Martina thinks, 'How dare you?' But that was my one and I used it up."
On the next point, Navratilova responded with an ace and proceeded to win the game with another ace. She would have six for the night, five in the first set.
She broke Shriver in the second game and then again for a 5-1 lead. After beating fourth-seeded Manuela Maleeva in the semifinals Sunday night, Shriver had said she couldn't allow Navratilova to do exactly what she did in that first set.
"I've seen her start quite fast, but that was ridiculous," Shriver said. "She was serving well and cracking her backhand returns."
The second set started as oddly as the first.
Shriver opened with a strong first serve and followed it to the net, where she proceeded to botch an easy volley. The ball bounced off the net and back toward her, where upon she booted it into the stands behind Navratilova. Mark Moseley would have proud of the kick.
The umpire told Shriver that was a no-no, something about an abuse of equipment.
But Shriver -- in proper use of equipment -- won the next point with an overhead, and won the game that went to deuce three times.
The crowd thought Shriver might be forging a comeback when she broke Navratilova to lead, 2-0. But it didn't hold up.
"I gave that game away," Navratilova said. "I lost that game and wasn't happy about it. I was a little slow and I wasn't attacking the ball.
"After I won, 6-1, in the first set, Pam had nothing to lose," she said. "But then I broke right back. It was there when I needed it."
Navratilova broke Shriver and then held her own serve to even the set at 2-all. Shriver held to make it 3-2, but it would be her last lead, as Navratilova broke her for a 5-3 lead.
"The second set was exactly what I wanted," Shriver said. "I got up a break, but then I lost serve to go back to 2-1. To me, that was the game. If I was going to make her struggle, I had to hold serve to make it 3-love. Then, maybe, I can make her nervous and get up two breaks."
Shriver said she also was trying to get a bit too careful.
"She's so quick, and sometimes I felt myself trying to hard to play cute angle," Shriver said. "You've just got to get it away from her."
She spoke to the media before the doubles match, and she said there would be no problem.
"We're partners and that's it," Shriver said, definitively. "We have to play the No. 2 doubles team in the whole world, and we have to play together as a team. And I don't don't want to lose twice tonight."
Then Shriver smiled and finished her statement: "And if I do, I'm going to beat the heck out of her."