Virginia Slims of Los Angeles

Mandlikova Has to Work Hard to Beat Spence

Hana Mandlikova entered her second-round match of the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles tournament against Debbie Spence with a definite plan in mind a plan that became obvious before the first serve had been served Wednesday night. Mandlikova showed her hand in the pre-match warmups, stepping to the net and flicking back Spence’s baseline shots with be-hind-the-back volleys. It was done for more than show. It was done to intimidate.

Mandlikova’s bully-the-kid tactics continued in the first set, as she would edge up almost to the service line on Spence’s second serve, like a third baseman readying himself for a sacrifice bunt. Spence knew what was going on. And, without flinching, the 17-year-old from Cerritos ignored it, involving Mandlikova, the tournament’s top -seeded player, in a strenuous three-set match before falling, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, at Manhattan Country Club in Manhattan Beach.

Ordinarily, just the very sight of the world’s No. 3 -ranked player on the opposite side of the net would be enough to send any teen-ager shaking in her sneakers. Such early round pairings usually end in less than an hour, with the wide-eyed youngster left with nothing but a memorable clipping for her scrap-book. 

But Mandlikova knew Spence better. And vice versa. “I was not surprised,” Mandlikova said of the match’s intensity. “She played me very tough in the French Open (Mandlikova won, 7-6, 6-2) and I know she’s a good baseline player. On a hard court like this one, she gets pretty confident when she tries to pass.” 

Mandlikova tried to get in the upper hand in the battle of the minds. But in this game, Spence held her own. Did Mandlikova’s come-closer, come-closer routine bother her? “Not really,” Spence said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you’ll see a player do that, come in close, and then drop back. They do that to try and intimidate you.”

Spence just kept honing in her second serve, rallying from the backcourt, passing down the line . . . and waiting for the aggressive Mandlikova to make a mistake. Spence knows this much about recent tennis history: Mandlikova may be much -talented, but she’s prone to lapses and upsets. “I knew before the match that she goes on streaks,” Spence said. “I was trying to keep the pressure on and hope to frustrate her.” 

 It worked for a set, but gradually, Mandlikova steadied herself. “I don’t think she was too bad tonight,” Spence said. For a while, Spence was looking like the latest entry in the local girl makes good file. She broke Mandlikova on the match’s first game and opened leads of 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3. Mandlikova had to scramble with some flashy net play to force a 10th game where she rallied from four set points to tie at 5-5.

But Spence calmly responded with another break and closed out the set at 7-5, producing the decisive point with her specialty a two-fisted backhand. Mandlikova was in trouble. This time she dealt with it. “The first round is always a tough time for me,” she said. “It takes me a while to grow into a tournament.” 

Mandlikova got growing in the second set. She won the first three games and coasted, 6-2.

The third set was a clinic on how not to hold serve. After Mandliko-va’s served up a 1-0 lead, neither player held serve again. There were nine straight service breaks. Mandlikova had five of them and, eventually, the match. “I couldn’t believe that,” Mandlikova said of the breakable third set. “After three breaks, I said, ‘My God, what’s happening?’ I couldn’t do anything; she returned well underpressure.” But this time, Mandlikova responded to the pressure in kind. And that left the upset of the day.


Mandlikova, ranked third in the world, dropped the first set, losing two service breaks. Spence broke at 5-5 and served out the set. The top seed evened the match with two service breaks in the second set. In the deciding set, nine of the 10 games were service breaks. With Mandlikova ahead 5-4, she broke Spence, ranked No. 39 in the world, for the fifth consecutive time and took the match, with a forehand volley winner. “I had my chances,” Spence said.

Hana blitzes Hanika in Slims tournament Associated Press

MANHATTAN BEACH Top-seed Hana Mandlikova of Czechoslovakia breezed past Sylvia Hanika of West Germany and into the quarterfinals of the $250,000 Virginia Slims of Los Angeles women’s tennis tournament Thursday. Mandlikova needed only 56 minutes to oust the tournament’s 10th seed and score a 6-1, 6-2 victory in the third-round match at Manhattan Country Club. In the quarterfinals, Mandlikova will face fifth-seed Claudia Kohde-Kilsch of West Germany, who overpowered Laura Gildemeister of Peru 6-3, 6-2.

After Mandlikova and Hanika traded service breaks, Mandlikova took control and reeled off nine straight games. She closed out the first set with a powerful forehand passing shot down the line. Down 4-0 in the second set, Hanika finally broke Mandlikova in the fifth game and held serve to pull within 4-2, but the Czech took the last two games and the match.

Mandlikova, who has now beaten Hanika in eight of their 14 meetings, still says she has trouble with the left-hander. “She’s a tough opponent because she’s a lefty,” Mandlikova said. “It’s hard to play a lefty. “When I lost my serve, I tried to put pressure on her again. She has a big swing and on this surface you don’t need that, and she got to the ball late.”


Like Ivan Lendl, her fellowcountryman from Czechoslovakia, Mandlikova has a reputation for wilting under pressure. Kohde-Kilsch, who contributed to that reputation with a surprising quarterfinal victory over Mandlikova in this year’s French Open, was well aware of her opponent’s track record. And, when she was staring down the barrel of 2-5 and 1-5 deficits Friday, Kohde-Kilsch used it as inspiration. “I’ve played her a lot of times,” Kohde-Kilsch said, “and I know it happens to her sometimes. It was a reason I tried to hang in there.” But as Mandlikova admitted, it has never before happened like this. “I’ve never experienced this in my whole life, being up, 5-2, 5-1, and losing,” Mandlikova said. “If I hit one or two bails differently, I win, 6-2, 6-1.” That’s how close Mandlikova was to a quarterfinal rout.

She led, 3-0, in both sets, had two set points at 5-3 in the first, held a 3-2 advantage in the first-set tiebreaker, broke Kohde-Kilsch’s first two serves of the second set . . . and still let it slip away. Squandering one lead of 5-2 is a news event. But coming right back and blowing a second-set advantage of 5 -1? That’s a spectacle.

Mandlikova spoke well of Kohde-Kilsch’s resilience. “I have to give her credit. She kept fighting,” Mandlikova said. And Mandlikova acknowledged her opponent’s abilities. “A good all-around player is what she is,” she said. 

But, mostly, Mandlikova rattled off alibis. Such as: Misfortune. “She was always lucky,” Mandlikova said of Kohde-Kilsch. “She’s like a machine, she’s programmed. She knows when to pass, she knows where to go. When she needed a shot, she got it.” The timing of the match. “I played two night matches and then played this one in the day. It is a little different serving in the day. The sky is different, the wind picks up in the afternoon. I had trouble with it.” Line calls. “It always seems I get the bad calls. When he (the umpire) overrules, it’s always negative against me. And if she (Kohde-Kilsch) gets a bad call, he changes it for her in the positive. I don’t know maybe I have bad luck with linesmen.” 

Or, maybe, when Mandlikova began to run away from Kohde-Kilsch in both sets, she was stricken with overconfidence. “No,” Mandlikova disagreed. “I was trying my hardest on every point.”

Kohde-Kilsch, ranked eighth in the world and seeded fifth in this tournament, has beaten Mandlikova in their last three meetings, owning a 3-2 career advantage. Of her latest victory, Kohde-Kilsch said she’d never seen anything like it. “No, not like that, two sets in a row,” she said. “After I won the first set after being down, 5-2, I thought I’d have a chance if I took a few games in the second. If I could make it 5-2, 5-3, maybe she’d start thinking about the first set and get nervous. “She played really well in the beginning. She won my service games on great passing shots. But, it’s hard to play that well through a whole match.” 

The key to the first set was the ninth game, which Mandlikova entered leading, 5-3. Mandlikova served at set point twice, but Kohde-Kilsch fought back both times. After deuce had been reached five times, Kohde-Kilsch succeeded in breaking serve. In the tiebreaker that ensued, Kohde-Kilsch fell behind, 3-2 only to win the next five points and the tiebreaker at 7-3.

The second set followed the same pattern. Mandlikova was serving for the set at 5-2, when she double-faulted twice. Kohde-Kilsch scored a service break, held her own serve and then broke Mandlikova again as Mandlikova double-faulted again. That made it 5-5. Once again, Kohde-Kilsch dropped back, trailing in the 11th game, 15-40. But for the umpteenth time, Mandlikova shut down when opportunity knocked, losing the next four points and backing herself into a corner. Serving this time to salvage the match, Mandlikova managed just one point in the final game. Kohde-Kilsch won it on a service return directed at the feet of Mandlikova.

An amazing collapse, even by Mandlikova standards, was complete. Kohde-Kilsch must, of course, be credited for maintaining the proper attitude. “I never gave up,” she said. She knew, that with Hana Mandlikova on the other side of the net, anything was possible. .