EASTBOURNE, ENGLAND, JUNE 20 -- Hana Mandlikova, winner of four Grand Slam titles, declared today that the upcoming Wimbledon will mark the end of her career as a singles player after 13 years.
Mandlikova, 28, cited burnout and an unwillingness to tolerate her recent series of losses to lesser players. From 1984 to 1987 she was ranked as high as No. 3 in the world, and in 1985 defeated Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova to win the U.S. Open.
In recent seasons Mandlikova suffered nagging injuries and her motivation, always questionable, disappeared. She took six months off in 1988 in an effort to rejuvenate her game, but, ranked No. 33 in the world, she called her comeback attempt a failure.
"I'm like an orange without the juice," she said.
An example came Tuesday, a loss in the first round of the Eastbourne Championships to Raffaella Reggi. Mandlikova said her decision was not a specific result of that loss, but rather culminated several months of contemplation begun at the Australian Open in January.
She said lengthy conversations with her parents and coach Betty Stove convinced her it was time to stop. She compared her decision to that of Evert, who retired at last year's U.S. Open citing an inner conviction that her time had run out.
"I know I have talent and I expect to produce good results," Mandlikova said. "If I'm working hard and it's not there, I'm too proud to lose to players I shouldn't lose to. . . . I feel like I'm letting down myself and people around me, like my parents and my coach. People who give 100 percent to me, and I feel like I'm not giving them anything back."
Stove, her longtime coach, likened the player to "a beautiful car, but the engine has run down."
Besides her U.S. Open title, Mandlikova won two Australian Opens ('80 and '87), and a French Open. It was at the French in 1981 at age 18 that she announced her presence, a lanky Czechoslovak with a beauteous all-court game. But a curious unreliability accompanied her fluid strokes, sometimes prey to upset, sometimes capable of beating any player in the world.
At the '85 Open, she defeated Evert in the semifinals and Navratilova in the final, both then at their peaks. In 1984 at a tournament in Oakland, she stopped Navratilova's winning streak of 54 matches.
"I'd like to be remembered as a champion who tried her best, and who had a beautiful style of play that people liked to watch," Mandlikova said. She added, laughing, "Unpredictable. Erratic."
Mandlikova, who divides her time between homes in Australia and Belgium, will continue to compete as a doubles player and in occasional special events such as exhibitions. She won the U.S. Open doubles title last year with Navratilova.
She said her one regret in retiring from singles play is that she never won Wimbledon, despite two appearances in the final. She chose Wimbledon, which begins next week, as the site of her retirement because it is the tournament she most wants to win, but she called herself an unlikely choice.
"I can't find the eye of the tiger," she said. "That's what makes a champion. I can honestly say I can't win the Grand Slam tournaments anymore. That's why I played tennis, and that's why I'm calling it off."
Navratilova Advances: Navratilova took 59 minutes today to ease into the Eastbourne quarterfinals, 6-3, 6-2, over Samantha Smith. Young Jennifer Capriati lost in Tuesday's second round, in three sets to Gretchen Magers.