LLOYD KEEPS CLIMBING TOWARD HER PEAK
Thursday, February 6, 1986
Even now, 12 summers since they danced at Wimbledon and talked about marriage, Chris Evert Lloyd and Jimmy Connors remain linked.
Their partnership off the court may have ended long ago, but in professional tennis Lloyd and Connors still are walking down the aisle together. When they get to the end, Connors, 34, and Lloyd, 31, retire.
But since this is an imperfect alliance, nobody ever said they would quit together.
"I think you can see what is happening," Lloyd said during an informal meeting with reporters yesterday at a Manhattan restaurant. "You can compare our careers. I read Jimmy's results in the papers, and just in the last year I've seen him losing to people he never lost to before.
"I think Jimmy was at his peak just a couple years ago. But in tennis, there's a big difference between being 34 and 31. I think you see players starting to go downhill in their mid-30's. "
It is a stage that Lloyd recognizes in her career's path. She will play this year, but she is noncommittal about another season. Yes, she wants to have a child with her husband, John Lloyd; no, she won't come back after she does.
But that's getting ahead of the march. To hear Chris tell it, you're out of step if you leave something out: the peak of her career. "I haven't reached my potential yet," she said.
She is entering a segment of her career that Lloyd believes may be the most fruitful. "I am, right now, playing the best tennis I ever have," she said yesterday. She did not mean this week or this month. The point being made was that for all her dominance over women's tennis in the Seventies, Lloyd could be better nowadays, even if she is the world's No. 2 player behind Martina Navratilova.
"I don't know how much longer I'll play," said Lloyd. "But I can do a lot more just this year. I've been a one-style player. Good concentration, great ground strokes. Now I'm working on making my serve a weapon.
"Have I peaked? I don't know . . . no, I haven't been an all-court player. I have plenty of weaknesses in my game. "
Lloyd was in New York to help promote the Virginia Slims Championships March 17-23 at Madison Square Garden. She is coming off a victory in last week's Virginia Slims of Florida . A flu-ridden Navratilova withdrew from that tournament.
"People ask me if I'm happy when Martina isn't playing in the same tournament," said Lloyd. "They don't realize that it makes it harder. Without her the pressure is on me. There are all these young players out to knock me off. The other players are very young. They're teeny-boppers. Last week, I didn't play anyone over 20. "
Lloyd said she missed her early days of women's tennis. She joined the pro tour in 1973.
"I used to have great talks with Billie Jean King and Rosie [Casales] and a lot of the other girls on the tour," she said. "I learned a lot. We had some stimulating conversations.
"Now? . . . I'm a better athlete than I've ever been and I'm in better shape, but I'm older and I've noticed it takes longer to recover from a match. I can't play three sets without waking up the next morning stiff. So I sit in my hotel room, order room service, and eventually go to play. "
Lloyd made a face at her description of that schedule. She has never liked the thought that her livelihood was her lifeblood. "I like listening to music," she said. "Training? Well, I am beginning to watch tapes of my matches. I've always hated watching myself. "
Asked why she never viewed her matches before six months ago, she said: "Because I was winning.
"I was just coasting along being No. 1. I could win easily even when I was 15 pounds overweight. "
But she trains now, and in her free time watches tapes of herself reluctantly. Soon she may be a witness to tennis fulltime.
"It will be an adjustment when I stop playing, but I'll know when it's time," she said. "I'll play as long as I'm one of the best, at the top. Hopefully, I'll see the writing on the wall ... "