Join Date: Jul 2012
IS NAVRATILOVA LEAVING EVERT IN HER WAKE?
The Miami Herald
Wednesday, March 16, 1983
Does Chris Evert Lloyd still belong on the same court with Martina Navratilova? The question arises because the rivalry between the two queens of tennis, so deliciously close and intense for so long, is starting to tilt decidedly in Martina's favor.
Anyone who writes off the formidable Mrs. Lloyd may wind up eating his words, but at least two experts are willing to take the risk.
"I think for Chris to win now, everything has to be in her favor, especially playing on a slow surface," said Fred Stolle, head pro at the Turnberry Isle Country Club, former French and Australian Open champion, and three-time Wimbledon finalist. "She'd have to be at her very best and catch Martina on a day she wasn't serving well."
Arthur Ashe, former U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion and current U.S. Davis Cup captain, agrees with Stolle. "It isn't too much of a rivalry right now," Ashe said. "Martina's a house on fire. Right now, she seems to be sacrificing more for tennis than any of the others. And let's face it, she's the best athlete on the women's tour, plain and simple."
A dissenting vote comes from veteran Rosie Casals. "I would never rule Chris out," she said. "Naturally, Martina's record has been unbelievable, and that gives her extra confidence. But I still think she considers Chris a real threat.
"I think it's still very much a rivalry. I think Chris will be gunning for Martina now. They've sort of reversed roles."
So the ball is in Chris' court, so to speak. No one else currently seems capable of challenging Martina, who has an other-worldly 111-3 record the past two years (21-0 in 1983). And she's not just beating people, she's annihilating them -- including Chris. Martina has beaten Chris decisively in their first two 1983 meetings, 6-1, 6-3 in an exhibition in Los Angeles two weeks ago, and 6-4, 6-0 in a Virginia Slims final in Dallas Sunday. Martina's last two victories came on fast indoor surfaces, where Martina's serve-and-volley game is virtually unbeatable, and the Dallas tournament was only Chris' second of the year as opposed to Martina's fourth.
Still, 6-0 against Evert would be impressive if it happened on the moon on Chris' wedding day.
Though Chris still holds a 30-21 career edge on Martina, Martina has won seven of their last 10 matches, eight of 11 if you count the L.A. match. In two of Chris' three victories, she was extended to three sets. Chris' only easy match was by an improbable 6-0, 6-0 score last year at Amelia Island, Fla., which is her home turf. Faced with intense crowd hostility, Martina simply tanked. No other way does she get double-bagled.
She hasn't been back to Amelia Island since, and don't look for her to return this century. Bobby Knight loves Puerto Rico in comparison.
The conventional line about the reigning monarch has always been "Nobody beats Martina but Martina." Bluntly, she has been a head case. She says that's over. "I don't think anything can bother me any more. The days of losing matches because I got upset are long gone."
She has said it before and then blown up, but she has been so consistently good the last year and three months there's reason to believe it may be true this time. The crowd was against her Sunday even in her adopted hometown of Dallas, but she was unaffected.
Martina is feeling so feisty these days, she says she's eager to meet Chris outdoors on clay, the setting and surface where Chris has always been deadly as a black widow. Martina notes proudly that in her last two outings against Chris, she has even been winning points consistently from the baseline, which is where Chris lives.
"It must frustrate her," Martina said, not sounding at all sorry about it. "I'm sure she's wondering how she's going to win when I can stand back on the baseline and trade shots with her."In discussing her latest loss to Martina, Chris was, at times, her usual dispassionate, analytical self. But she also offered a few uncharacteristic rationalizations, launched a few defensive lobs.
She pronounced herself "disturbed but not devastated" over the loss, and said the tournament was an over-all plus in that she played a lot of matches and "gutted them out." She also said, somewhat cryptically, "I learned a little more about Martina's game, and that might help me in the future. The more I play her, the better it is for me."
After 51 matches, she's still learning about Martina's game?
Going beyond the immediate post-mortem, one sentence from Chris seemed to sum up the current state of the rivalry. "I know if I'm playing well I can stay up with her," she said.
Stay up with her? That sounds suspiciously like give her a good game. Opponents used to say that before playing Chris. They still do ... everyone but Martina.