CARLSBAD — Spectators and contestants at the $500,000 Chrysler Women's Team Tennis Championships at La Costa Hotel and Spa got to sample several of the major elements Saturday--cold, wind, rain and, eventually, hail.
They also managed to get in some tennis, although not enough to determine who precisely is going to participate in today's championship final.
We know for a fact that the doubles tandem of Hana Mandlikova and Rosalyn Fairbank is in. Before the storm, Mandlikova and Fairbank managed to dispose of Zina Garrison and Kathy Rinaldi, 6-1, 6-4.
We also know one-half of the consolation title draw. Pam Shriver and JoAnne Russell made it by edging Manuela Maleeva and Anne Smith, 7-5, 7-5, in the day's first match.
But as for their opponents . . . well, not even the weatherman knows for sure.
After six delays on account of rain and another because of hail, tournament directors finally decided to call off the last two matches scheduled for Saturday--one championship semifinal and one consolation semifinal.
Instead, they will be played today. At least that's what the directors are saying as they cross their fingers and reshuffle the third-day agenda.
At 9 a.m., it will be Breakfast at La Costa: Kathy Jordan and Alycia Moulton against Wendy Turnbull and Betsy Nagelsen in a championship semifinal. Then, at 11:50 a.m., the team of Martina Navratilova and Candy Reynolds will face Barbara Potter and Billie Jean King in a consolation semifinal.
The championship final will follow at 1 p.m., with the consolation final set for approximately 3:30 p.m.
Then again, there could be more rain. Early forecast for Carlsbad today: 20% chance of precipitation.
So, at any rate, today's tennis is still tenuous.
Mandlikova and Fairbank had to withstand two weather delays before determining whether they would advance to the tournament's title match. If they were distracted, they didn't show it--sweeping past Friday's big story in straight sets.
Garrison and Rinaldi were the ones who plunged Navratilova into the losers bracket with a first-round upset victory. After yielding just three games to Navratilova and Reynolds in a nearly flawless performance, Garrison and Rinaldi could scarcely keep the ball in play Saturday.
At one point during the match, Navratilova wandered by press row, watched a few mis-hit balls spray out of bounds and wondered aloud, "Why couldn't they have done that yesterday?"
Maybe it was the wind that kept kicking up across the court. Nope, Garrison insisted.
How about the two interruptions? Nah, it was the same for everybody, Rinaldi said.
An explanation, anyone ?
Garrison and Rinaldi took the easy way out. "Too many unforced errors," they both said, which is kind of like the tennis player's equivalent to "I'll have to look at the films first."
Something was certainly amiss, as Fairbank surmised.
"I expected them to hit the ball a lot harder," Fairbank said. "They didn't have anything on the balls they hit."
Mandlikova took a stab at the problem. Maybe it was the obvious--the weather.
"I think it affects others more than us," Mandlikova said. "I'm from Europe and Ros is from South Africa. There, it's always windy. We're used to it."
Mandlikova also felt that Garrison and Rinaldi were playing on borrowed time in the semifinals, that they were fortunate to have progressed so far.
"I saw their match (Friday)," Mandlikova said. "Martina played very well, but Candy was not at her best. If Candy had gotten a little more of her serves in, they (Garrison and Rinaldi) would not have beaten them."
Whatever, for a doubles team that was literally thrown together at the last moment--they've never before played on the same team--Mandlikova and Fairbank have become a fairly proficient duo in a hurry. They have already won $75,000 in two days and are one step away from splitting $200,000 more.
That's pretty heady stuff, particularly for Fairbank, whose biggest payday thus far in her career is $35,000.
Will all that money be on her mind when she steps onto the court for the tournament final?
Mandlikova cut off Fairbank with mock hysteria. "No!" she shouted. "Don't even think about it!"
Then, with a smile and a wagging finger, Mandlikova scolded the questioner: "Don't put pressure on her."
Fairbank laughed and finally began to answer the question. "You try not to worry about that," she said. "If you lose . . . "
Mandlikova, again, interrupting: "If you lose, you still get $50,000."
Either way, Fairbank and Mandlikova are set. They're guaranteed some sort of handsome prize. They're in the final.
And who will join them there? That's the second leading question of the day. Who'll stop the rain?--that's No. 1.