That is what she revealed, once again. Also, her grandeur. Her splendor. Her fitness. Her greatness.
Her highness, Martina Navratilova, empress of tennis, took the Wimbledon women's singles crown Saturday for the seventh time, and for the fifth in a row, this time 7-6, 6-3 over Hana Mandlikova, not even dropping a set in the tournament for the third time in four years. Another queen sweep.
Just when it appeared she would lose a set at last, Navratilova came back from a 5-2 disadvantage in the first set--firing home 22 first serves without a miss. She overcame a hot start by Mandlikova, a court made wet by morning rain, even such unlucky breaks as a point that Martina failed to win while Hana was on hands and knees, having fallen to the grass.
The run of five straight championships tied Navratilova with the late Suzanne Lenglen and with young retiree Bjorn Borg for most successes in succession. It also put her within one singles title of the record total of eight held by Helen Wills Moody, who is 80 now and probably was watching a telecast of the proceedings at her Carmel, Calif., home.
When the match was over, Navratilova, 29, was presented with the wok-sized silver plate by the oldest living Wimbledon champion, 90-year-old Kitty McKane Godfree, who won the tournament in 1924 and 1926. "She told me she didn't get a plate when she won, but her name is engraved on it," Martina said. "I just hope I'm around as long as she is."
That would be the year 2047, and presumably, Navratilova will be finished playing for money by then. Godfree still hits a ball or two for fun these days, and Navratilova volunteered to volley with her today if she is up to it. Someday, perhaps, Martina will descend from Wimbledon's Royal Box to hand the award to the winner, as Kitty did. Perhaps they will sit there together.
There was no queen in the box, no king in the box, not even a jack in the box, but to Wimbledon's All England Club Saturday, royalty did come. There sat the Duke and Duchess of Kent, the Crown Prince and Princess of Jordan, Sir Georg Solti of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, any orchestra's favorite violinist Isaac Stern, an admiral, an ambassador, a lord and lady, a viscount and viscountess, everybody but the Duke of Ellington, the Count of Basie and the Lords of Flatbush.
They saw Navratilova take her 14th Wimbledon title, with her women's doubles final and mixed doubles final still remaining to be played. Lenglen won 15, Billie Jean King 20. They also saw Navratilova take her 34th straight Wimbledon match. She has not been beaten here since the semifinals of 1981 (by Mandlikova) and has lost two sets in five years.
Not two matches in five years.
Two sets in five years.
"I think her achievements are unbelievable," Mandlikova said. "Maybe there isn't anybody else who can do it. It's unbelievable, like Bjorn Borg."
The kid is too young to remember Lenglen and Moody. But at 24, Mandlikova looked ready, willing and able to have her own name carved onto the plate. Any heroine-worship she may have once had for Navratilova, the player she once served as a ball girl in Prague, was left behind when this match began.
Mandlikova broke her first service and quickly led, 3-0. She took Martina to deuce next time, too. Navratilova's big serve wasn't cooking yet; she later claimed not to have been concerned at all, but on the court, Martina was mumbling, pacing, smacking her racket, shooting pained looks at her coaches and friends in the seats.
She also was wiping the mist off her eyeglasses with her skirt, over and over. It had rained much of the morning, and there was a slight drizzle during the match. Centre Court's worn grass was so slippery that both women continued to scrape goo from their shoes, and at one point Navratilova pretended to skate along the white baseline, Dorothy Hamill-like.
While leading, 5-2, Mandlikova felt compelled to change shoes. If superstitious, she will never do so again. Soon it was 5-5, then 6-6, and Martina was belting unreturnable serves. Her first serves were perfect, 22 of them in a row, and the tiebreaker was not even close, 7-1.
"I thought, 'My God, when is this streak going to end?' " the champion said. "I even thought it would be tough hitting a second serve again, because I hadn't hit one for a while. Even in practice I had to hit some extra second serves, because I wasn't missing any first ones."
It was reminiscent of basketball's Larry Bird, saying he sometimes has to practice complicated shots because the regular ones become routine. Navratilova often finds herself needing a challenge.
At the U.S. Open last summer, much the same thing happened. Mandlikova led during the first set, 5-0, but had to scramble to win it in a tiebreaker and then had to play like crazy to win in three sets. To beat Navratilova, a player has to make breaks and take breaks.
During the second game of the second set Saturday, Mandlikova fell while serving. Navratilova, facing an open court, struck a backhand that was out by a foot.
But Hana got few such gifts. Her new shoes, with the little spikes on the bottom, did improve her footing but also changed it, and she needed time to adjust. Plus, the damp surface made the tennis balls heavier, Hana claimed, helping the more powerful player. Losers who do not leap for excuses do, occasionally, stretch for reasons.
Mandlikova turned flat-footed. On a break point, she let a backhand go by, rather than volleying it, and it easily dropped in bounds to put Navratilova ahead, 3-1. At deuce of the next game, Navratilova mis-hit, lobbing one that went over the net by a foot, and watched with surprise as Mandlikova failed to get to it.
Mandlikova had one more chance to turn the tables, to do exactly as her opponent had done in the first set, with the score 5-3. A service break could have turned the match around. But when faced with break point, Navratilova hummed an ace, then hit two easy winners to end the match.
"I got a little up-tight," Mandlikova admitted.
The championship hers, as usual, Navratilova accepted the congratulations of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, kissed Godfree on the cheek and posed with the silver plate, of which she now has more than the china department at Neiman-Marcus. She also blew a kiss to her father, mother and sister, who had flown in from Prague. Her prescient father has been making family members' jaws drop by making right-on predictions of every tournament's outcome, including his daughter's recent French Open loss to Chris Evert Lloyd. "He said from now on he'll write it down, seal it in an envelope and let me read it after the tournament," Martina. "He's been dead accurate. He predicts my double faults, he predicts when I break serve, everything. I always took it with a grain of salt, but mother said it's true."
The family is doubly excited because Martina will be returning to Czechoslovakia, for the first time since defecting in 1976, to play for the U.S. squad in the Federation Cup, beginning July 21. She disputed the notion that her homeland is now anti-Navratilova and unwilling even to publicly publish her results. "They haven't shunned me," she said. "They publicize me. In fact, they write about me more than they write about Ivan Lendl."
At Wimbledon, they simply write her name on silver plates.
"I don't know how many years I can carry on for," Navratilova said. "Maybe two or three years. Could be more. Your guess is as good as mine."
Nobody thought to ask her dad.
Before the rain got worse, Mats Wilander and Joakim Nystrom took the first set of the men's doubles title match from Peter Fleming and Gary Donnelly, 7-6. Fleming has won the doubles four times with John McEnroe, but Donnelly, of Scottsdale, Ariz., had never even won a set at Wimbledon before this. . . . Jaime Fillol beat Tony Roche in the 35-and-over final, 6-3, 6-2. . . . The only left-hander besides Martina Navratilova who ever won the women's singles title was Ann Jones of Great Britain, 1969. . . . Navratilova said she may not meet Hana Mandlikova in their native Prague in the Federation Cup because she intends to play No. 2 singles, feeling that on clay, Chris Evert Lloyd deserves to be No. 1. "Believe me, this is not a cop-out," Martina said. . . . Navratilova filmed a promotional spot for the Statue of Liberty's new debut and was still laughing over Pam Shriver's having shown up here Friday dressed like the Statue of Liberty, with crown and torch. . . . Actors Cary Grant and Charlton Heston attended Friday's matches. . . . For the official Wimbledon program Saturday, Laurie Pignon wrote: "Tonight, the twelfth night, music will be the food of love, and it will play on until the new Lady Champion has had excess of it. Also it will be the night when the loser, whose heart was playing leap-frog with the stars, will be counting sheep and might-have-beens and wishing sleep would come to wipe away hurt." That's easy for him to say.
NAVRATILOVA'S REIGN Results of Martina Navratilova's seven Wimbledon singles championships.
Year Opponent Scores 1978 Chris Evert Lloyd 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 1979 Chris Evert Lloyd 6-4, 6-4 1982 Chris Evert Lloyd 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 1983 Andrea Jaeger 6-0, 6-3 1984 Chris Evert Lloyd 7-6, 6-2 1985 Chris Evert Lloyd 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 1986 Hana Mandlikova 7-6 (7-1), 6-3