Battle of talent at the Garden

Preview : Mandlikova new force on court

NEW YORK – Hana Mandlikova has been an enigma ever since she burst onto the women’s tennis scene both on and off court. She combines grace and shot-making not seen since Evonne Gcolagong was at her height. Her blunt honesty has caused her problems with the public and fellow players. And her career has seen its moments of spectacular triumphs along with more than her share of disappointments.

 But, after a break from tennis late last year, Mandlikova has once again become a force to be reckoned with.

Seeded third in the 16-woman field at Madison Square Garden, Mandlikova begins her march towards the $125,000 first-place prize in the $500,000 Virginia Slims Championships when she plays Andrea Temesvari of Hungary in an opening-round match.

 “I always believe I can win,” said Mandlikova, who this year has backed up her statements with her play.

Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Hana Mandlikova , Helena Sukova, DR

Now 23, the acrobatic, talented right-hander comes into the Slims Championships with a 19-3 match record this year, having won her last two tournaments. She defeated Chris Evert-Lloyd 6-2, 6-4 in the final of the Virginia Slims of California and, two weeks later, shocked Navratilova 7-6, 6-0 in the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Indoors.

“She’s reacting really quickly and she’s hitting with a lot more topspin on the forehand,” Navratilova said of Mandlikova. “Hana is going for her shots, moving very well and playing aggressively.”

 If the seedings hold, Mandlikova will meet Navratilova in one semifinal, with Evert-Lloyd playing Turnbull in the other.

1st rd vs Andrea Temesvari

Close first round for Hana, agains topspin hard-hitter from Hungary, Andrea Temesvari.

The powerful Andrea played all her chances, and challenged Hana Mandlikova, who , at the end of the day, earned a hard fought victory in two close sets, 7-5 7-5 at the Madison Square Garden.

QF vs Zina Garrison

Garrison, who was seeded seventh, outplayed Mandlikova for most of the first set. But Mandlikova achieved the only break of the set in the eighth game, and she went on to win five games in a row and nine of 10.

It won’t be as much fun for the top-seed against Mandlikova. Although Navratilova holds a 13-5 career advantage, they have split their last four meetings. Two weeks ago, Mandlikova defeated Navratilova in straight sets at Princeton, N.J.

Mandlikova has not dropped a set in her last 12 matches.

Kathy Rinaldi, Sydney Poitier, Zina Garrison at the MSG, DR

“Hana is not the joking type, it’s a little more serious with her,” Navratilova said. “When the opportunity presents itself, Pam takes it to the limit. Hana does funny things sometimes, but most of the time she keeps to herself.”

Hana Mandlikova, DR Tennis de France
SF vs Martina Navratilova

Defending champion Martina Navratilova survived set points in each set to subdue Hana Mandlikova Saturday and reach the final of the $500,000 Virginia Slims Championships along with Helena Sukova.

Navratilova, down 5-3 before sweeping the last four games in the opening set, took a 7-5, 7-6 victory over Mandlikova, winning the tiebreaker 9-7.

Navratilova, after leading for most of the tie-breaker, faced a set point at 6-7, but took the next three on a pair of service winners and a netted backhand by Mandlikova to end the 1-hour, 39-minute match.

Martina Navratilova, DR – Tennis de France

Here was Martina Navratilova losing points because the player on the other side of the net was her athletic equal. Here was Martina hitting through a crisp first serve, and only having enough time to turn her head and catch a glimpse of the ball rocketing past her for a winner. Here was Martina facing set points in both sets and needing every tit of brilliance her racket could give her to catch up, to win. 

And here was Martina, in the interview room following her 7-5, 7-6 (9-7) semifinal Virginia Slims Championships victory over Hana Mandlikova, challenging the critics of her sport, those who see women’s tennis as a festival of lobs, by saying, “If you can tell me women’s tennis is boring after that, well 

” Well-done was what you wanted to shout after watching Navratilova, the top seed, outlast Mandlikova, No. 3, after both had filled the Garden surface with brilliant shot-making from the baseline, the middle of the court, and the net.

Most of all, the net, which is where tennis becomes a game that keeps people alive in their seats, rather than asleep in them. 

WHAT SAVED NAVRATILOVA, what put her in this afternoon’s final against No. 5-seeded Helena Sukova (a 6-4, 6-2 winner over Kathy Rinaldi), was not a stronger body as is usually the case but a sturdier mind. Having had her serve broken three times, trailing 3-5 in the first set, she survived set point in the 10th game, and won the last four games.

In contrast, it was Mandlikova’s inability to deal with her blown opportunity that cost her the set. She temporarily went kablooey after that 10th game, causing her to lose service for the fourth time in the set, at 15, and then Navratilova served out the set at love. Those two games, though, were the only ones in which Mandlikova was too emotional, too angry, too distracted to handle the constant pressure applied by Navratilova.

AFTER HAVING WON her last two tournaments, having beaten Chris Evert Lloyd and Navratilova (7-5, 6-0), Mandlikova was beginning to convince people that, at 23, she was ready to assume a role other than that of the potentially great player. She was a little more convincing when she didn’t disappear after dropping the first set. 

She continued harassing Navratilova’ with her return of service particularly with the forehand. Or as Martina, who had watched Mandlikova destroy Zina Garrison on Friday night from the backhand side, said, “She was hitting it a hundred miles an hour. I didn’t know where to serve. I was just happy to get through it.”

To which Mandlikova added, “She wasn’t better than me today, just luckier.” 

Again, Mandlikova was having trouble putting aside the close shave. After she survived five deuce points on her serve in the 10th game of the second set, she had set point at 7-6 in the tiebreaker. Fate intervened. Navratilova sliced her first serve to the backhand, and Mandlikova broke a string and mishit the return wide.

Hana Mandlikova, DR – Elle

“In a match like this,” Navratilova said, “you got to be a little lucky.”

“I wanted it badly,” said Navratilova, ‘ who two weeks ago lost to Mandlikova in straight sets at Princeton, N. J. “Hana was going for broke. She was hitting her forehand 100 miles an hour. I had to try to stay back, mix it up and get her thinking.”

It was the first loss for Mandlikova in her last 13 matches, a streak during which she didn’t drop a single set.

 A crowd of 15,786, the largest single session crowd in women’s tennis, witnessed the program at Madison Square Garden

More about the event

Kathy Rinaldi was awarded third place and the $30 000 prize when third seeded Hana Mandlikova of Czechoslovakia was forced to withdraw from Sundav s match with muscle spasms in the back of her left thigh Mandlikova received $24 000 for finishing fourth.

Kathy Rinaldi, Mary Carillo. DR – Tennis de France

Martina Navratilova won the Championships by beating Helena Sukova in straight sets, who reached the finals, benefiting from the defeat of Chris Evert-Lloyd vs Kathy Jordan in a first round match.

Once again, this finals at the best of 5, didn’t go beyond the 3-sets.

A record 80,584 attended the Virginia Slims Championships at the Garden.