The script, the one written for the star of the show, has been perfect. Each day the cheers have grown louder for Martina Navratilova, and today she clinched a spot for the United States in the Federation Cup final with an easy 6-1, 6-4 victory over Claudia Kohde-Kilsch of West Germany.
That put the United States into Sunday's final against Czechoslovakia's team, the three-time champions, the hosts and, of course, Navratilova's former compatriots. The United States beat West Germany, 3-0, and Czechoslovakia won both singles and beat Argentina, 2-1, to set up the final showdown, which is the way everyone wanted it.
The last eight days have been a hectic joy ride for Navratilova, but they have been strange and difficult for the three main supporting actors in this soap opera.
Chris Evert Lloyd has been overshadowed for the first time in her life, injured for the first time in her life, and defeated while representing her country for the first time in her life. She also narrowly escaped injury in a near-accident.
Not her best week.
At least she still is playing. West Germany's Steffi Graf, the No. 3 player in the world, was hit on the right foot by a windblown sun umbrella, broke the big toe and couldn't play in the quarterfinals or semifinals.
And last, but certainly not least, there is Hana Mandlikova. She is the Czech who stayed Czech but spends less than a month here each year. She had almost as much trepidation about playing here as Navratilova. "It has been six years since I played a tournament here," she said. "I want to show my people I can play. It's been a nerve-racking week."
Nerve-racking is an understatement. Mandlikova decided that her team's off day Friday would be a good time to get married to an ex-patriate Czech named Jan Sedlak. Sedlak moved to Australia 18 years ago and met Mandlikova eight years ago when she was 16.
Mandlikova got up, got married, had a cup of coffee with her new husband, went back to the hotel to change and joined her teammates for practice.
For the record, the bride did not wear white. "I have to wear white at Wimbledon," Mandlikova said. "So today, at the wedding, I wore leather. Blue leather."
Graf got hurt, Mandlikova got married. But the one who has had a trying week is Evert. She knew coming in that the spotlight was going to be on Navratilova, but it would not have been good form for her to skip the tournament when Navratilova was returning home 11 years after defecting.
"I don't mind playing a supporting role ," Evert said. "Of course, if I were not to come, everybody would look at it as a 'she doesn't think she'll get any attention' type thing. But I'm happy to sit back and observe. That will be new for me."
The knee problem is also new for Evert. Next to her competitiveness, her most enduring quality over the years has been her ability to avoid injuries. This week, after sitting out the first round, she won her first match easily, then lost shockingly in the quarterfinals to Italy's Sandra Cecchini, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
That loss came 24 hours after a frightening incident for Evert. Walking down a narrow cobble-stoned street near Prague castle on a sightseeing tour, Evert was almost hit by a machete that fell out of an upstairs window, missing her by only a couple of feet.
Today -- finally -- things got a little better for Evert. Playing Bettina Bunge in the opening U.S.-West Germany match, she had trouble moving but won the match, 6-3, 6-4, largely because she knows what to do with the ball every time she gets to it and because, over the years, she has found more ways to win than perhaps any other player.
"Chris got into the match a lot better today," U.S. captain Marty Riessen said. "It was encouraging to see."
Encouraging because the U.S. team will be facing a tough situation Sunday. The Czechs have not had an outstanding week. Mandlikova, by her own assessment, did not play well until her 6-2, 6-4 victory over Gabriela Sabatini today. Helena Sukova, who will play Evert, has struggled in several matches. But, like the Americans, they have won. And Sukova, who is 0-13 in their matches, may have a chance to win with Evert hobbled. Sukova almost did it at Wimbledon when Evert was healthy.
Either way, Navratilova-Mandlikova will be the match of the tournament. "I have not felt like the home team very many times in my life and I have felt that way this week," Navratilova said. "That's been very special."