Tennis has a new star of the first magnitude in 19-year-old Hana Mandlikova, whether or not she defeats Chris Evert Lloyd in the final of the women's singles here today.
If she does win, she has a chance to win the "Grand Slam" of four majors in a single season, for she is already the Australian and the French champion. If she loses, well, most experts rate her future as one high in the company of such players as Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Maria Bueno, Louise Brough, Billie Jean King, and of course Evert Lloyd herself.
Chris remains the sentimental favorite of many -- especially after having been the beaten finalist here the last three years. She has won the title twice (1974 and 1976), but has lost in the finals on four occasions -- to King in 1973 , to Martina Navratilova in both 1978 and 1979, and to Evonne Goolagong a year ago.
Hana will not be without her supporters, though, and they will include her parents, who are making the trip from Prague for the big occasion. This will be the first appearance in a Wimbledon final for the young Czech star, but she's no stranger to pressure situations. She reached the final of the US Open last fall and won the first set from Evert Lloyd before eventually losing the match. And she defeated Chris in the semifinals of the French Open a few weeks ago en route to that title.
Both finalists also have looked sharp here in advancing to this ultimate test , leading observers to anticipate a match of the highest quality.Mandlikova, after losing the second set of her semifinal against Navratilova 6-4, overwhelmed her former countrywoman 6-1 in the decisive third set. Evert Lloyd, meanwhile, was cool serenity itself in dispatching fellow American Pam Shriver with ease, 6-3, 6-1.
The women's tournament is thus ending up the way the seeding committee expected, Chris having been seeded No. 1 and Hana a somewhat controversial No. 2 . The men's seedings also held up at the top, with Nos.1,2, and 3 -- Bjorn Borg , John McEnroe, and Jimmy Connors -- all advancing to the semifinals as expected. Most of the other seeded players were upset early, however, allowing unseeded Rod Frawley of Australia, who stands only 112th in the worldwide computer rankings, to carve a surprising path through his half of the draw and join them in the final four.
McEnroe's inability to control his famous temper has of course been one of the main talking points throughout the entire two weeks this year. He already has been fined $1,500 for one outburst against the umpire and the referee during his first-round match against Tom Gullikson, then on the eve of his singles semifinal he got into trouble again. This time it was in a doubles match which he and Peter Fleming won against the Indian brother team of Vijay and Anand Amritraj -- but not before a line call sent McEnroe into another temper tantrum.
Perhaps John could take a few lessons from Mandlikova, who despite her youth showed considerable poise in the semifinals when she was foot-faulted on her second service at what could have been a vital point in a vital game in the final set.
The line judges had just been changed after their routine 90 minutes. Hana walked over to the new judge and asked which foot. He told her, "Your back foot." Hana smiled quite amiably and said, "I don't have a back foot." (The line judge was of course right. The youngster has a habit of dragging her right foot over the line before contacting the ball).
Far from being disturbed by the happening, Hana lost only a couple more points in the match, hitting scorching winners from every side and part of the court.
This final display of extraordinary grace and talent finally convinced all doubters that a future superstar had blazed again at Wimbledon.
Interestingly enough, such was not the unanimous opinion when Borg won the junior title here eight years ago. One expert observer, Britain's John Barrett, judged then that Bjorn wouldn't make it to the top because "his game is not suitable to grass." Barratt laughs ruefully but joyfully at this these days. "How wrong can you be?" he asks.
But Borg does hit across the line of the ball. He therefore has to be exceptionally accurate with every stroke, and any bad bounce can see him making what look like beginner's mistakes.
He made several in his quarterfinal against Australia's Peter McNamara, and for one set looked unsettled and in some danger. But suddenly he had won the first set 7-5, and from then on McNamara could do nothing and was beaten easily in three sets.