Billie Jean King, calling on all her vast experience and her legendary determination, has staged a series of dramatic victories climaxed by a startling upset of Tracy Austin June 30 to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon.
The six-time former champion, defying the general opinion that she is now far past her peak, began her surge in the third round. She rallied from the brink of elimination to defeat Tanya Harford of South Africa. Down a set, trailing 6-5 in the second, and serving at 0-40, she saved all three match points and went on to a 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 victory.
Next came a 6-2, 6-3 upset of sixth-seeded Australian Wendy Turnbull, putting her into the quarterfinals - where the string seemed sure to run out. The 19 -year-old Austin, already a two-time US Open champion and seeded third here compared to King's No. 12 ranking, hadn't even been born when Billie Jean played her first match at Wimbledon 21 years ago. And so far in their individual meetings, youth had conquered experience every time, with Tracy holding a 5-0 match record over her 38-year-old rival.
This one started the same way, too, as Austin took the first set in routine fashion. But Billie Jean, reaching back for the spark that had been missing in most of her recent appearances, fought back to take the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
That puts her in the semifinals, where she will face No. 2 seed and defending champion Chris Evert Lloyd, who also advanced Wednesday via a 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of Barbara Potter.
King's conquest of Austin was her 90th singles victory at Wimbledon. She has won 20 titles there of one sort or another.