Martina Navratilova woke up hungry last Sunday morning, so she spent most of the day noshing on croissants, pasta, waffles and fruit. Navratilova likes to De hungry the day of a big match, because, she says, it means she has her nerves under control. On Sunday she had a lot to be nervous about, because like it or not—and she didn't—that evening, in the finals of the Toyota Championships at the Brendan Byrne Arena in New Jersey's Meadowlands, she would be playing for the No. 1 ranking in women's tennis for the year. Her opponent would be her archrival, Chris Evert Lloyd, the best unnerver of them all. Not this time. After Navratilova played the first set as if she had indeed spent the day stuffing her face, she used imagination, verve and patience to lift her game and win going away 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Without Borg-Connors and Borg-McEnroe, Evert Lloyd-Navratilova has become tennis' most compelling rivalry. Evert Lloyd has won 30 of their 49 matches, but since 1978 the series stands 17-11 in favor of Navratilova. This year in particular there has been little love lost between them. When Evert Lloyd walked past the Navratilova dinner table at the Meadowlands Hilton one evening early in the Toyota tournament, Navratilova said hello, but Nancy Lieberman, her housemate, spokesman and caretaker, didn't speak, a snub Evert Lloyd noted. "Nancy doesn't talk to me during tournaments," she said the next day.
Not so, countered Lieberman, trying to keep a straight face. "I didn't see her," she said. Later, a reporter asked Evert Lloyd if she and Navratilova were friends. "If you got Martina off by herself, I think we could be," she said.
Evert Lloyd knew Lieberman would read that one. When she was at Old Dominion University, Lieberman was the best women's basketball player in the country, and she knows the value of a headline stuck on a locker room wall. Consequently, she keeps a file on whatever Evert Lloyd says for publication. "I use the quotes for motivation," says Lieberman. "Chris is very shrewd. She courts the press and they fall for it."
December 27, 1982
Counterattacking, Lieberman telephoned Steve Flink, a senior editor at World Tennis magazine, during the tournament and accused him of leading a media campaign to have Evert Lloyd selected as No. 1. "I assured her that nothing could be more untrue," said Flink. Navratilova and Lieberman maintained all week that Martina deserved to be ranked first regardless of how she fared at the Toyota.
"I wouldn't know what to tell Martina if she doesn't get No. 1," said Lieberman at a practice session. "She worked so hard and did everything asked of her. She changed everything, from her game to her looks to how she acts on and off court. Yet she's always an underdog. Not one statistic is in Chris's favor. Not one." Added Navratilova, "This isn't boxing. It doesn't come down to one match. We play all year."
Navratilova did indeed have a fantastic year. She won 15 of 18 tournaments, including two Grand Slam events, Wimbledon and the French Open, 90 of 93 matches and $1,461,055. Her winning percentage of 96.8% was the highest since the Women's Tennis Association began keeping track in 1973. She has been No. 1 on the WTA computer since January and would have stayed there even had she lost at the Meadowlands. In one stretch she won 41 straight matches, in another, 59 of 60. Navratilova's only defeats were to Sylvia Hanika at the Avon Championships in March, to Pam Shriver at the U.S. Open and to Evert Lloyd at the Australian Open in December. In their two other meetings of 1982 before last week, Navratilova beat Evert Lloyd at Wimbledon, and in Brighton, England in November.
As for Evert Lloyd, going into the Toyota final, she had won 42 of 43 matches since Wimbledon. During the span, she won the other two Grand Slam events, the U.S. and Australian Opens. The only player to beat her this year besides Navratilova was Andrea Jaeger, who did so three times. However, Evert Lloyd defeated Jaeger seven times, and five of those wins were in the last four months. Evert Lloyd ended the year having won 10 of 16 tournaments, 75 of 81 matches and $689,458. In short, the first half of 1982 belonged to Navratilova, the second to Evert Lloyd—until the Toyota.
This year the tournament increased its field from eight to 12 and switched from a double-elimination to a single-elimination format. That meant the four seeds, who each received a bye, had only to win two matches to reach the final. Navratilova and Evert Lloyd hardly mussed their hair getting there. Navratilova beat Wendy Turnbull 6-2, 6-1 and Hana Mandlikova 7-6, 6-1.
Evert Lloyd began with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Shriver. Then in the semifinals she beat Tracy Austin 6-0, 6-0. That's right, love and love! Austin, who never had been shut out in her pro career, got only nine points in the first set and five in the second, and of those she really only won three; the other 11 were unforced errors by Evert Lloyd. For most of the year, Austin was plagued by several ailments, including a recurrence of sciatica and tendinitis in her right shoulder, and she won just one of 12 tournaments. Before facing Evert Lloyd last week, Austin beat Mimi Jausovec 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 and Jaeger 6-4, 6-4. But even in victory Austin looked rusty. She moved poorly, and her normally penetrating groundstrokes lacked pace.
On Sunday it was Navratilova who appeared to be rusty for a time, but in the last two sets she was a different player. "I knew I had to break her serve once, and that would loosen me up," she said later. Navratilova got her first break of the match in the second game of the second set, and from then on she was in control. Time and again Navratilova broke up long baseline rallies with stinging approach shots that set her up for winning volleys and with deft drop shots that pulled Evert Lloyd off the baseline. In the final two sets, Evert Lloyd lost 23 of the 30 points that found her at the net. "Martina slowed down the pace," Evert Lloyd said afterward. "But I think I let up just a touch, and you can't do that against her."
In the last set, Navratilova broke Evert Lloyd's serve three times en route to a 4-1 lead. "I kept up the pressure and let her know she couldn't win from the backcourt," said Navratilova. The end of the match, the year and any remaining question as to who should be No. 1 came in the eighth game when Navratilova rushed net behind her second serve for the first time all evening, and Evert Lloyd's backhand return sailed wide.
"I guess I can relax now—for a couple of weeks," said Navratilova, looking ahead to the start of the new year.
"I'm not disappointed," said Evert Lloyd, adding that because of her strong showing in the second half of the year she may play more tournaments in 1983. "I'm very encouraged, and I'm looking forward to next season." Put that in the file, Nancy.