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French Open Tennis Championships : Lloyd Hopes for a Repeat of Final in Paris

Times Staff Writer

Chris Evert Lloyd was about to comment on her next match when her opponent in that match, decade-long rival Martina Navratilova, interrupted in the interview room at Roland Garros Stadium Thursday.

“Martina, get out of here,” Lloyd said, losing her composure.

“I just want to see if you want to go out Friday night to an Italian restaurant,” Navratilova replied.

“You aren’t going to stay in here, are you?” Lloyd persisted.

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It was the first time all day that she had seemed rattled.

The same could not be said of Hana Mandlikova, Lloyd’s opponent in the semifinals of the French Open tennis tournament. Lloyd, using passing and lob shots, coupled with a strong first serve, dismantled Mandlikova, 6-1, 6-1, to advance to her 33rd Grand Slam final.

Her opponent Saturday on Roland Garros’ storied red clay will be, of course, Navratilova, who escaped the upset trend by battling back to defeat sixth-seeded Czechoslovakian Helena Sukova, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.

They may have a nice dinner Friday night, but Saturday it will be the same place, same thing, for the women. Last year, Lloyd defeated Navratilova, 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, in an exciting final. They will be meeting for the 14th time in a major tournament final, Navratilova holding a 10-3 advantage.

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“If I was playing anyone else, I would go in with a lot more confidence,” Lloyd said. “But if I were to win a Grand Slam title, it would mean the most to me to beat Martina because she’s No. 1.”

Said Navratilova: “Losing last year won’t be like an inducement to me this year. I shall never forget that match, though. When you lose a title, you want to win it even more next time.”

Saturday’s final will be the 69th meeting between Lloyd and Navratilova, going back to 1973. Navratilova leads the series, 36-32.

Thursday, they took different routes to the championship final.

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Lloyd, who said she was mentally prepared for Mandlikova, was exceptional with her shot selection, and kept her opponent off balance.

Trailing, 3-1, in the first set, Mandlikova raced to make a backhand return, slid across the slippery clay, which was dampened by on-again, off-again sprinkles, and reinjured a finger. She first suffered a sprain in a quarterfinal match against Steffi Graf Tuesday. The finger bled for almost five minutes before the women’s trainer, Donna Pallulat, brought it under control.

X-rays revealed no break, only a sprain, and Mandlikova was cleared to play her doubles semifinal Saturday with Wendy Turnbull.

“It hurt very badly,” she said. “I had to play with only four fingers.”

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She hurt it again in the second set, and contemplated forfeiting.

“I couldn’t hold the racket on the forehand and my serve,” Mandlikova said. “It’s very difficult to judge how I would have done if it did not happen. It’s not an excuse, it’s just unfortunate.”

The way Lloyd mastered Mandlikova, it is doubtful an uninjured finger would have been enough. Lloyd lost to Mandlikova in her last two matches--the semifinals of the U.S. Open last September and the semifinals of a Virginia Slims tournament last March.

“She gave me more incentive than usual,” Lloyd said. “Even up until she hurt her finger I had a good start.”

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Mandlikova challenged only in the fourth game of the second set, when it took Lloyd eight tries at deuce to win a service break and a 3-1 lead. From then on, Lloyd was all but assured of a berth in the French final, which she first won in 1974.

Navratilova, going into the semifinals without having lost a set, faced a much stiffer challenge Thursday.

Sukova was three points away from an upset in the second set, and after losing it, she was understandably upset.

“I cannot be more disappointed than I am,” she said.

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Said Navratilova: “I could have lost that match easily.”

Sukova, playing with surprising confidence, had a 4-3 lead in the second set tiebreaker but fell apart and lost it, 7-4. Navratilova used the momentum to gain her 20th Grand Slam final, easily winning the third set.

Navratilova said she was disoriented playing an opponent with a serve-and-volley game such as Sukova’s.

“And it is so much different when you have to pass somebody so large (Sukova is 6-3),” Navratilova said. “I missed a lot of passing shots. I hit the balls too hard, and they went into the net.”

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Sukova started the rain-delayed match by breaking serve and giving notice that she was playing well. And as she continued to pressure, Navratilova began wondering aloud what she could do to win.

“It was frustrating,” Navratilova said. “I broke her and then lost my serve (in the second set). I couldn’t believe it. I thought I could have lost the match. It was nerves. I tried to relax.”

After winning, though, she was ready to relax--at least until she enters center court again Saturday.

French Open Notes Ivan Lendl, the tournament’s top-seeded male player, will face Johan Kriek in the first semifinal match today on center court. France’s Henri Leconte will meet Sweden’s Mikael Pernfors, a former NCAA champion from Georgia, in the other semifinal. . . . Hana Mandlikova, disturbed about a call by the service linesman, Mary Frances Giltz of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., asked if Chris Evert Lloyd was paying her. Later, when an apparent bad call at the baseline went against Lloyd, a photographer wondered aloud if that official was on Mandlikova’s payroll.

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