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Jordan Has the Spotlight : Virginia Slims of San Diego Field Limited but Growing

July 16, 1986|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — One look at the entry sheet can turn a giant-killer into a giant.

No Martina. No Chris.

Yes, Kathy Jordan.

When Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert Lloyd choose to skip a stop along the Virginia Slims tour, low seeds become favorites. Players relegated to Court 11 move to center court. Vaguely familiar names on a score sheet host press conferences.

Jordan--known as a giant killer for upset victories over Navratilova and Lloyd--was the guest of honor at the San Diego Hilton Beach and Tennis Resort Tuesday morning.

Another upset.

But wait. Although Jordan is the 16th-ranked women's tennis player in the world, she will be seeded third in the $75,000 Virginia Slims of San Diego tournament July 28-Aug. 3.

"The smaller money being offered will not enable them to lure as strong a field," Jordan said. "But that doesn't mean there won't be a lot of great tennis players."

Sixteen of the top 60 players in the world and three of the top 20--No. 8 Bonnie Gadusek, No. 14 Rehe Stephanie and Jordan--will compete for the $12,000 first prize in singles.

No Navratilova. No Lloyd. And don't even mention them. When their names came up (again), Jordan's radiant smile changed to a frown. She was ticked off.

"Constantly being asked questions about them gets very annoying," Jordan said. "It's very tiring to talk about other people. What are they doing? What are they thinking?

"Who cares? It gets to be a little unoriginal and uncreative. It's the same old stuff. . . . There is this one guy--a reporter in Dallas--who is in love with Chris. I interpreted one of his letters to her to be a love letter.

"There are a lot of interesting personalities and good tennis players out there."

Take Jordan: The 26-year-old from King of Prussia, Pa., and Stanford University has been a consistent top-20 singles player since 1979. She defeated Lloyd in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 1983, and has beaten her in a tournament every year since.

Earlier this month, Jordan led Lloyd 5-1 in the first set of their best-of-three match at Wimbledon.

"It was there for the taking," Jordan said. "I was playing so well and there was nothing she could do. Then I got a bad call on set point and I pouted about it. I couldn't get it out of my mind."

Instead of leading one set to none, Jordan lost 10 straight games and the match, 7-5, 6-2.

"The momentum switched hands," Jordan said. "When you let someone of Chris' stature back in the match, you are in trouble. It was very disappointing."

Jordan made up for her disappointment in singles with another Wimbledon doubles title.

"In doubles," Jordan said, "I can share winning and can blame it on a partner if I lose. I think I'll always do well in doubles, but I haven't attained that same results level in singles."

Just ask Navratilova about Jordan's prowess as a doubles player.

In 1985, Jordan and Liz Smylie defeated Navratilova and Pam Shriver in the championship match of the women's doubles at Wimbledon.

It snapped the Navratilova/Shriver winning streak at 109 matches and kept Navratilova from achieving her dream of winning the triple. Navratilova won the women's singles and mixed doubles.

This year, with Navratilova once again going for the Wimbledon triple, Jordan and Ken Flach beat Heinz Gunthardt and Navratilova in the mixed doubles final.

"It was kind of tense before the match," Jordan said. "I was standing for a picture beforehand and I couldn't smile. I was too nervous."

During the match, Jordan said she could see that Gunthardt was the one really feeling the pressure.

"It's tough for him playing with Martina," Jordan said. "She wins almost every match. If they lose, it will be his fault."

How does Jordan feel about being a favorite in the San Diego tournament?

"A favorite?," said Jordan. "I don't look at it that way. Players have the same attitude everywhere. Paranoid and nervous. At 5-5, 30-30, people are choking. Even in exhibitions, players still want to win their matches."

The Virginia Slims of San Diego is far from being an exhibition. The field is considerably stronger than last year's, when Wendy Turnbull was the only highly player.

Playing the tournament in late July instead of in the spring, when it was held last year, has attracted players who also are entered in the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles in Manhattan Beach Aug. 11-17. The hard courts at the San Diego Hilton make it a good place to prepare for the U.S. Open, which is held in New York in late August.

"I thought I'd come here for an easy tournament," Jordan said, with tongue in cheek. "But for a $75,000 tournament, this is one of the toughest fields. I'm kind of a little ticked."

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