Oy, take a deep breath. Shield thine eyes hanafan!
I re-print this because as Hana said in her book, though it was the roughest time in her career, she did at least realize that she was wrong and had the guts to apologize for what she did and said.
"Paradox in Motion"
by Jean Rafferty
Down on the Centre Court at Eastbourne the world's number two was showing signs of fallibility against Helena Sukova, the Czech six footer. Up in the stands the world's number leaned forward in her seat re-directing the match. Chris was playing Sukova entirely the wrong way, decided Hana Mandlikova. She should be bringing her in for low balls as Helena's centre of gravity was way up here. Hana's hand shot up in the air to demonstrate. Several people turned around in astonishment at the clear tones ringing out so forciby from such a slight frame, though Mrs. LLoyd had to close out her match without the benefit of Hana's opinion. By then, the mercurial Hana was more interested in testing the tanned thigh of the gentleman next to her with her racquet.
Later, in the press room, someone said, "Hana? Delightful, isn't she?" And yes, she was delightful - open, direct, refreshingly opinionated in a sport where the writers don't have to make up the usual sports page cliches because the players oblingingly think in them. Hana just said what she thought. Her so-called feud with Martina Navratilova had not yet exploded into ugly newsprint and although it was obvious she didn't much like her former compatriot her comments were more humurous than wounding.
Talking of American, for example, and the amplitude of consumer goods on offer there for those with the money to afford them, Hana said she had always been able to get any goods she wanted in Czechoslovakia, whereas Martina has confessed she was dazzled by the range of things you could buy just in a local supermarket. "Maybe that was because she came from a little village," said Hana loftily. "Maybe they couldn't get things there so that's why she got so FAT."
Her more professional opinons, we now know, are regarded as sheer insolence by the two players ahead of her in the world rankings. Martina Navratilova was even shown on the Nine O'clock news talking about how Hana was disliked by the other players, was unprofessional, and had no respect for anyone. She'd prefer to play Chris in the Wimbledon final, she respected her so much. The unspoken implication was that losing to upstart Hana would be unbearable.
What had Hana - now known as "Hana the Horror" by Fleet Street - done to deserve such condemnation? Well, she'd said that on her day she was capable of beating anyone in the world, (daze) and she thought she would have more chance of beating Martina than Chris Lloyd would should they meet in the final. Neither of these statements was as outrageous as both were later made to look. Hana HAS beaten both women ahead of her and is so far the only person to beat Martina in 1984.....................
Chris Lloyd was another matter as Hana had not beaten her for three years. "I still kid her about it when we meet in the locker room," said Chris, presenting for one curious moment an image of herself as a pysochological predator off court too. How do you "kid" someone about three years of losses? Given Chris Lloyd's grace of character there must be a way and Hana is probably perk enough and good-humoured enough to respond in kind to any teasing.
But if Chris' recent form had been anything to go by, Hana was justified in thinking she ahd a good chance of reaching the final. At Eastbourne her form was so unlike what it had been in the past that you sometimes wondered just what was it about Chris Lloyed that had made her a world champion? Had she continued to play at that level Hana would very likely have backed up those saucy claims and reached her second final.
It was not to be. Chris dug them all out, all those things that took her to the top, and brandished them in Hana's face. Their semi-final was a rout with Chris pinning Hana to the baseline, mercilessly exposing her as a frail, fluttery creature too feeble to fight her way out of trouble. She could not have humiliated her more. Up in the commentary box Virgnia Wade was noting that Hana always tried to beat Chris by hitting winners against her, an impossible task to set oneself for the duration of a whole match. Hana might have benefitted from this opinion had it been available to her and not just to the large audience sitting at home watching the telly.
In some ways Hana is remiscent of Virginia Wade herself as a young player. At her best she is fast, inspired, aggressive, even brilliant. At her worst the speed becomes impetuosity, there is no inspiration, and the aggression is unsupported by intelligece. In other words she plays stupidly. Against Chris Lloyd she had become a parody, a cartoon of herself, shooting though one game after another like a panic-stricken Jerry pursued by Tom, all respect to Mrs. Lloyd.
This was early model Hana, not the new improved consistent 1984 version, but the one who slipped seven places on the computer rankings...............the one who throughout that period suffered from recurring back injuries which she now says was pyschosomatic in origin..............And then probably from that mental........from the pressures, "I began to have more inuries. You have to try hard all the time and finally you get it together again.................
She could have chosen an example (of talent) nearer to home to look at........................But Hana, as we know, is unlikely to cite Martina as an example of anything these days.
She sat in the sunshine outside the players' tent at Eastbourne, legs stretched out in front of her. Despite the static position she seemed to always be in motion, slender fingers - "I have the skinniest hands of all the players here," she noted with satisfaction - plucking at her gold jewellery, legs jiggling as if even when she wasn't up and running her body was going throught motions. When she talked about Martina that clear voice rose at least a proporton of a decibal in impatience.
"When she defected I was then 12. I didn't know. I didn't care. Whatever. She can do what she wants. Every person is different. Probably at some point she had problems with the Federation. They might say if you don't do that we're not going to let you out. Might be." And she shrugged.
The ironic thing is Martina as a star is now lost to a country (later proved to be wrong) whose strength in tennis was the direct result of the cussess of one star, ........................, Jan Kodes............................ Hana, though, seemed to be expressing more than patriotic bitterness when she talked about her former compatriot. "Who cares?" At the time when she defected she was not a star at all. She just was talented player so who cares that some Navratilova is going to defect? Nobody cares," she says emphatically. "Right now nobody cares either because nobody likes the life she's living. Nobody really cares."
The life she's living? Did she mean Martina's well-publicized lesbianism? "Lesbian thing? Yeah, sure," said Hana firmly.
Disapproval of the "lesbian thing" the conflict in lifestyles between the champion and a challenger who told one newspaper she wanted to be remembered as "a nice girl and a very good tennis player" - yes in that order - may be behind Hana's impish mockery , her striking of Charles Atlas muscleman poses when Martina hits a winner. .................................................. ...
The public taunts have hurt Martina but they certainly goaded her......................................
She is of course infinitely more graceful on court than Martina, more overtly feminine in the traditional sense, though neigher grace nor feminity ever won a tennis match. .................................................. "I don't respect Martina for her achievements," she said of the woman who has just completed a doubles Grand Slam. "When you see how she looks now I htink people should be asking the doctors how she got that way. If I comment about her size and the size of her muscles I am only saying what everyone else can see. I am no the kind of person who is going to close my eyes."
...................................It's sad that Hana should align herself with them (those who discredit Martina because of her sexuality), particularly as she has one of the most exciting and attacking games in womens tennis. The game needs her to support it, not to knock it. The irony is that her favorite player as a young girl was always Margaret Court, whose wrists were tested as being stronger than the average male lorry driver's.
How ironic indeed! At this point in her life, Hana was still in or just out of her long time relationship with Nigel Sears who now serves as Hantuchova's coach. Her life was to change quite bit as we see from her attitudes expressed in this interview. It's not one of her better interviews and I'm sure she'd be the first to say that.
In her book, Martina is credited as being a very good friend to Hana. But even Hana admits that she had no right to expect anything in the way of friendship from Martina after the summer of 1984. But it speaks to Hana's sense of fairness that she apologized at the 1984 US Open to her and most definitely speaks to the giant heart that Martina had towards Hana whom she felt a kinship with.
As for Chris, she was not to get the same apology but "Tennis" (USA) was to report that they had a private chat about how the media distorts things and that there really was a mutual respect. Hana paid tribute to both players in Prague during that epic Fed Cup in 1986.
Hana and Chris seemed to have a few more difficult moments but after Hana defeated Chris in the 1986 Wimbledon semis, she said that she noticed a difference in Hana. Hana didn't rub the defeat in and she appreciated that.
Just a good little reminder that even though you can act like a donkey, it's never too late to make up for it.