In her superlative style, Martina Navratilova took women's tennis another step forward today.
Navratilova was at her best, stopping Hana Mandlikova's challenge before it could start, then racing through the final five games for an historic 6-2, 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 victory in the final of the $500,000 Virginia Slims Championships.
Navratilova ended most questions about the outcome when she ran off a 10-game winning streak that carried her to a two-set lead.
Mandlikova, who beat Navratilova in the U.S. Open final last September, challenged only in the third set, but was unable to maintain the momentum.
It was the first woman's match in 85 years to extend beyond three sets. Although there were four sets, the experiment remains on hold inasmuch as the match consumed only one hour 42 minutes and didn't test the ability of women to play longer contests.
"Emotionally, it was different," Navratilova said. "We weren't out there that long, though. There weren't that many long rallies. Both of us would have been fine if it went five sets.
"This was really a showcase for women's tennis, and a showcase for me. I wanted to win here.
Navratilova closed out the match with a second service ace, her ninth ace of the day, completing a week in which she collected $386,250 to boost her career earnings to $10,429,674.
"I felt great," said Mandlikova. "I lost the first two sets very easily. Starting the third I believed I could still win. I was not tired. Martina just played too good."
Steffi Graf was awarded third place when Chris Evert Lloyd withdrew from their scheduled consolation match with "fatigue."