Last year’s tournament, won by Martina, excited almost no one, so the Slims people came up with the idea of a best-of-five final, figuring that even if Navratilova was going to trounce someone, at least they’d keep her on the court long enough for network television advertisers to peddle their products.
“I’ve never done it before, so I don’t know how I’ll handle it,” the top-seeded Navratilova said at yesterday’s draw. “But I think it’s a good idea. I’d like to see them do it at all the major tournaments.”
She was obviously speaking for herself. Across the room, Hana Mandlikova, the only woman to beat Navratilova this year, was wondering out loud what the purpose of the five-set final, was. . “For me, I don’t think it will be a problem because I am in good shape,” Mandlikova said.
“But I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think women should play three sets. Why should we play five? I think the public enjoys women’s tennis more than men’s. Sometimes, the men’s game just goes too fast We play three sets at a good pace. Why change it?”
But before the Sunday final, Monday evening, Hana Mandlikova, seeded sixth, overcame a shaky start to dump West German Sylvia Hanika 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in 1:49. Both credited psychological maturation as key factors in the wins.
Mandlikova, who has won three tournaments in 1984 and who halted Navratilova’s 54-match winning streak in Oakland last month, thought the difference in development lies not in playing styles, but in cultural backgrounds. “I’m still growing up and still young, but I’m trying all the time,” said Mandlikova. “I think European players take a longer time to grow up (than Americans) because everything in the United States is a little faster.” Mandlikova’s win over Hanika evened their career head-to-head record at 6-6, but Hanika had previously taken five-of-six indoor matches.
In front of 9,884 fans, Hanika, who captured this Madison Square Garden tournament two years ago, upsetting Navratilova in the final, raced out to a 5-1 lead in the opening set.
In their first set, Hanika’s slicing serves kept Mandlikova at bay. When Hana did come to the net, she couldn’t put away her volleys.
She broke Hana’s serve in the first, third and fifth games, losing her own service in the fourth game. Then, it was Mandllkova’s turn. She won the next three games, breaking Hanlka’s serve in the eighth game. The West German left-hander, however, held at 30 in the 10th game to wrap up the opening set.
I knew it wasn’t too good,” Mandlikova said later, describing her play and. her plight That’s when the new Mandlikova found her way to the Garden, got her headband in place, grabbed her racket and told young, erratic Hana to get lost or she’d lose her allowance. Mandlikova rallied to 4-5, lost the set 6-4.
But when Mandlikova survived a 18-point game to open the second set, staving off six Hanika break points, her confidence seemed to soar.
Hana finally found her game. She fell behind by losing her serve in the third game, giving Hanika a 2-1 lead. But Mandlikova got to the net and won three straight points, rocketed, her first serve to Hanika’s forehand for a winner and then put away a gorgeous overhead off a deep Hanika lob to hold service. She broke Hanika in the next game and closed out the set with the look of a speeding Metroliner.
Funny note : Hana repeatedly asked that the crowd be quieted and once spoke up herself, snapping, “Shut up”.
Hanika had one chance to derail Mandlikova in the third set, but now she was out of luck.
On break point at one-all in the third game, the West German had Mandlikova reaching for a forehand pass, but stood frozen on the baseline as Mandlikova’s volley climbed over the net chord and fell to the carpet.
“After that” Hanika said, “she was playing with a lot more confidence.”
Hanika said she didn’t notice any special difference in Mandlikova, who has won three of four tournaments in which she has played this year and handed Martina Navratilova her only – loss in 1984.
“I dont think she won the match,” said Hanika, who returned last week to the tour from a two-month rally with a viral infection. “I think I lost it”
Not really. Mandlikova’s game picked up appreciably in the second set. Her approaches were deep, her first serves usually were good enough to follow to the net, from where she conducted a clinic in crisp volleys.
The better Mandlikova played, the more Hanika retreated into a defensive shell, even waving at a few balls. Mandlikova does that to opponents when her head and headband are properly screwed on.
For this first match, Hana doesn’t wear Le Coq Sportif gear anymore. She happened to sign a 5 years contract with Reebok, starting here at Madison Square Garden.
Pam Shriver, who considers herself a veteran of the women’s professional indoor circuit, was saying just the other day how she must be the most “unheard of” No. 3 player in the world. But after last night’s 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) quarterfinal victory in front of 11,585 at the Garden in the $500,000 Virginia Slims Championships over Hana Mandlikova who has been the hottest player on the Slims circuit in 1984
After exchanging breaks to open the first set. both players held service until the eighth game. Shriver nearly blew triple break point, but Hana Mandlikova hit a couple of shots wide and Shriver broke her and then held for the set.
Trailing 4-1, Hana suddenly threw a scare into Shriver with breaks in the sixth and 10th games. After saving double break point in the 11th game, Mandlikova had two set points in the 12th before Shriver managed to hold.
Shriver then took command in the tie breaker, winning it 7-3 to hand Hana Mandlikova only her second loss in 19 matches this year.
“I think I got only about 10 (it was actually 43) of my first serves in,” she said, “and it’s very difficult to win like that”
Said Shriver: “I got up two breaks in that set, and under the circumstances, you’d think that the match would be over. But I got a little tight I didnt want it to go three sets; I’m not in the best shape. But I think I played a good, smart tiebreaker. I served well and played some smart shots.”
Shriver, who captured the Virginia Slims of Chicago in early February, had not beaten Mandlikova in their four previous meetings.
“Maybe I took it a little easy since I’ve always beaten Pam,” Mandlikova said. “She played very, very well. I give her credit; but it was not one of my best matches.”
“I’m pleased with the way I’ve been playing,” Shriver said. “I’ve won by playing consistent tennis.”
Unfortunately, Pam fell short against Martina Navratilova in semis. Martina won in straight sets, before outplaying Chris Evert-lloyd in 3_best of five- sets sunday’s final.
A crowd of 15,309 fans broke the record for the largest single-day crowd at a women’s-only tennis event only 24 hours after it had been set during the Slims semifinals. The week’s total attendance at Madison Square Garden 78,577 was the largest in women’s tennis history.