Lendl, Navratilova cemented No. 1 rankings with Open wins. Tennis finale was no day for the underdogs
Besides being superlative tennis players, Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova are genuine dog lovers. In the finals of the US Open, however, they barely tossed out a bone to their underdog opponents.Skip to next paragraph
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Martina, who flew here from Texas with her five dogs, all Japanese pure-breds, muzzled Helena Sukova 6-3, 6-2, to win her third Open singles crown. Ivan, who owns and trains German shepherds as a hobby, made sure Miloslav Mecir knew who was the boss, beating the surprise finalist handily, 6-4, 6-2, 6-0.
Thus ended one of the most peculiar chapters in the history of this event, which seemed more like the ``Czechoslovak Closed National Championships'' than the ``US Open.''
The presence of four Czech-born finalists marked the first time a foreign country had achieved such a sweep.
Navratilova, of course, gave up her Czech citizenship long ago and considers herself every bit as American as John McEnroe, who was actually born in West Germany. She realizes, though, that in many eyes she may always be an American with an asterisk beside her name.
``It amazes me that every single article that is written about me, even if it's just four sentences, says `Navratilova, originally from Czechoslovakia but now living in the United States' . . . ,'' she said after her victory. ``I'm just Martina, period. I'm an American; you don't have to remind everyone where I came from.''
The reminders are difficult to ignore, however, given the situation at this year's Open. In fact, many feel her defection may have led to Czechoslovakia's rise to tennis power, prompting officials in that country to give players more freedom.
Asked if this were so, Sukova, whose mother had been Navratilova's coach, replied, ``I know it was different when she [Martina] was back home. . . . I don't really know how it was in that time. I just know how it is in this time. But I heard that she has something to do with it.''
There's little question, for example, that Lendl and Hana Mandlikova, the '85 women's champion here, have been allowed to become unofficial Czech-Americans. Lendl has lived in Greenwich, Conn., for five years, and hasn't returned home since 1984. Mandlikova, meanwhile, now calls Florida her home away from home.
Lendl, in fact, seems to have become as Americanized as Martina, who lives in Fort Worth, roots for the Dallas Cowboys, uses a full array of American idioms, and took time to phone her favorite actress, Katharine Hepburn, while in New York.
Even so, she doesn't necessarily get the American crowds in her corner, maybe partly because they love to root for the underdog. Whatever the reason, she remains curious about this situation.
``I would love to go out there [in the stands] and say, `What do you think? Tell me what you feel.' . . . They may have the craziest reason for liking me or not liking me. . . . I don't know. You never know.''
What seems a virtual certainty is that she has wrapped up the No. 1 women's ranking. Chris Evert Lloyd, who beat her at the French Open but lost in the semis here (to Sukova) and at Wimbledon (to Mandlikova) looks to be a clear-cut No. 2.
Martina has staked her claim with what she calls ``a summer to remember.'' Winning the US and Wimbledon crowns together for a third time was thrill enough, but her warmly received return to Czechoslovakia for July's Federation Cup matches was a rich icing on the cake.