Chrissie's last slam title:
Lloyd Wins French Open for 7th Time She Retains Title With Victory Over Top-Seeded Navratilova
The Los Angeles Times Jun 8, 1986; ELLIOTT ALMOND;
They started this affair on March 22, 1973, at an indoor tournament in Akron, Ohio. An uneventful match of tennis was played, with the sport's No. 1 player beating a newcomer from Czechoslovakia, 7-6, 6-3.
The newcomer didn't care. She was thrilled to meet the champion. While learning the game in Prague, she idolized the champion, referring to her as "a blonde goddess."
But after 13 years of competition and genuine, heartfelt friendship, they both are champions. They are at the summit of women's tennis, if not the sporting world. They are Martina and Chris, Chris and Martina, whichever you prefer.
The fashionable talk in women's tennis circles may be the blossoming of youngsters Steffi Graf, Carling Bassett and Gabriela Sabatini, but when all is said and done, when it is time to watch a Grand Slam final, it is Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert Lloyd who must be reckoned with.
When they met for the 69th time Saturday afternoon in the women's final of the French Open at Roland Garros Stadium, they showed what this venerable rivalry is all about.
They showed a friendship and respect that has been weaved together through years of bouncing balls and bouncing life styles. It's true, life's unfair. When they meet on center court it's sad someone walks away as the loser.
But not on Saturday. Not when Lloyd, after being given little chance to win an unprecedented seventh French singles title, started poorly and then played two flawless sets to bring the French to their feet with cheers as she defeated Navratilova, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Navratilova leads the series, 36-33.
Lloyd, who has been in the news more for her comment on her unstable life, passed Bjorn Borg and Suzanne Lenglen with her seventh title. Yet, she seemed to let the moment pass as quickly as her radar-perfect shot flung by a stunned Navratilova.
Though a monumental victory in a monumental rivalry, Lloyd was content to outwardly play it cool. That's part of this Chris and Martina thing.
"I didn't want to make her feel any worse than she already did," Lloyd said. "I know how she is feeling. I didn't want to jump around out there after it was over. But deep inside, I am thrilled."
Lloyd, 31, has reason to be thrilled. She started so poorly that it looked as if the women's final was going to be as exciting as a marathon game of Risk.
Serving poorly, Lloyd seemed out of rhythm, something Navratilova has a habit of doing to opponents. Lloyd lost her first three serves and was incapacitated by Navratilova's strong left-handed forehand. She lost, 6-2, in less than 45 minutes.
But with the second set, Lloyd came to play. Navratilova did not play poorly, but it was one of those special days when Lloyd, weaned on the slow surfaces of Florida, was keyed to take command.
"I'm not unhappy with my playing," Navratilova said. "I have no reason to hang my head. She just played a great match. She made some unbelievable passing shots." Lloyd, fearing Navratilova's dreaded forehand, tried to work the ball deep to the backhand. The strategy was smart on paper, but on center court it was an entirely different matter. To make it work, Lloyd had to pinpoint each shot because of the stiff wind that swept up clay dust storms throughout the match.
To Navratilova's dismay, Lloyd was able to hit the baseline and keep the ball in play-not once, but almost at will. And when Navratilova, 29, tried her pat serve-and-volley attack, Lloyd answered with a passing shot.
As Lloyd began hitting shot after shot after shot in the second set, her confidence began to build. So did her first serve, which had failed her in the first set.
Except for a brief moment in the decisive set, Lloyd remained on cue.
Navratilova, however, said the third game of the third set was the match's turning point. Leading, 2-0, and serving against the wind, Navratilova failed to take advantage as Lloyd made the big plays to close it to 2-1.
"That was one of the few really poor games I played," Navratilova said. "That may have been the match for me. I could have taken a 3-0 lead with the wind."
Lloyd won her serve on four straight points to tie the set, 2-2. Navratilova won the next game, but that was it as Lloyd's strength increased as the match progressed.
"She seemed to win all the crucial games," Navratilova said. "She won all the turning points. I thought my forehand would be a good enough weapon against her. But I'm not used to running around that much; she was passing well.
"If I play like I did today, I'll win most of my matches. I would have won last year's final if I played this well."
Last year, Lloyd broke Navratilova's dominance of 13 straight wins over her by scoring a 6-3, 6-7, 7-5 victory in the French Open final. Navratilova defeated her in three sets in the Australian Open last December, and then again last March in a Virginia Slims tournament at Dallas, 6-2, 6-1.
Such losses left Lloyd outwardly despondent over her game, and she has contemplated retiring. At least those closest to her have suggested as much.
With the victory-Lloyd has beaten Navratilova 14 of 24 times in three-set matches-she may want to hang around a little longer. With days like this, there is no reason for Lloyd to think about anything but her next two-handed backhand lob, cross-court drive or robot-like baseline defense.
Of Navratilova, Lloyd said: "If I'm going to beat Martina, this is my best shot, on the clay. Her game is more effective on the grass . . . she rushes me more. No matter what happened today, Martina is still number one."
She also came to Navratilova's defense with regard to the hostile crowd, which decidedly favored Lloyd. After the match, Navratilova told the fans: "Last year, I spoke to you in French, but this year, I'm going to talk in English. It doesn't seem to help much, anyway. Maybe next year, I'll get a little more support."
Later, she said: "I don't know if I'm too strong for them, or too threatening. After last year, I thought they'd be more even. I don't know what I have to do."
What she needs to do is find a way to beat Lloyd here.
As it is, Saturday's victory was Lloyd's 18th Grand Slam title, and the 13th consecutive year she has won at least one major tournament, starting with the 1974 French Open.
And though Navratilova is the world's top-ranked player and Lloyd is No. 2, there's no denying that each has her own space in tennis history. For these two, sharing is a way of life.