Going into their semifinal match in the $250,000 Virginia Slims of Los Angeles tournament, Pam Shriver had never beaten Chris Evert Lloyd in 16 tries. She still hasn't. Lloyd won, 6-4, 6-4, Saturday night.
Helena Sukova had beaten Martina Navratilova only once in 15 tries. It's still just once. Navratilova won the other semifinal at the Manhattan Country Club, 7-6, 6-1.
Now, what we have, yawn, is yet another Chris and Martina final. They have played 69 times in their careers, with Navratilova holding a 36-33 edge.
"I'll have to play very well, very sharp," Lloyd said of today's 2 p.m. final with Navratilova. "I'll have to pass well and move well. I have to be on the top of my game to beat her."
Lloyd was at the top last May when she beat Navratilova in the final of the French Open. The win came on Lloyd's favorite surface, clay. Lloyd was asked if that victory, which came the last time the two had met, would give her momentum today.
"It's a mental thing," she said. "Before last year I had lost 13 matches in a row against her. They begin to total up . . . nine losses, 10 losses. During that dreadful two years, every time I walked on the court with her I knew I was going to lose.
"Now, I've beaten her three times in the last three years. I don't think she's dominating like she once did. She's still No. 1, I'm not trying to take that away from her. She's playing well."
Both semifinal matches Saturday involved players who knew each other's game well.
Lloyd knew she had to play a precise, exacting match to counter Shriver's superior serve and rangy net game. Shriver knew she would have to attack Lloyd's serve and get herself to the net on the strength of deep approach shots.
Each stuck to her game plan, some of the time. "Pam played well in spots and I played well in spots," Lloyd said. "Neither of us went in there and played great tennis the whole way."
With Shriver coming in on her second serve, Lloyd found herself sending up lob after lob early in the match. It was a lob that went long that cost Lloyd a service break and gave Shriver a 2-0 lead in the first set.
It proved a short-lived advantage, however, as Lloyd came back to break Shriver in the next game. Lloyd's service break in the fifth game was all she needed to win the set.
Shriver had her chances. She had a break point with Lloyd serving at 5-4 in the first set and had three break points in the eighth game of the second set. The third break point was staved off with a show of Lloyd's athleticism. Shriver worked her way to the net with a deep approach shot that forced Lloyd into a defensive lob. Shriver slammed an overhead that kicked wide. Lloyd got the ball and, on the run, whipped a cross-court forehand that Shriver couldn't reach.
Shriver, who is ranked No. 6 in the world, has won only two sets from Lloyd in her career. "I guess I'm protecting my streak," Lloyd said.
Sukova was voted the most improved player on the women's tennis tour last year, which is about as good a measurement as anyone needs to illustrate the level of Navratilova's game.
If you can imagine that Sukova, No. 7 in the world, played as well as she is capable and still couldn't put a dent in Navratilova, then you have a taste of how the rest of the tennis world feels.
Navratilova, seeded No. 1, pulled out the first set by dominating the tiebreaker, which she won at 7-2. Before that, the match had been an exchange of strong service games.
And one minor controversy.
With the score tied at one game apiece and Sukova serving at break point, Navratilova questioned a line call. To be precise, she yelled: "Call the goddam lines."
For that, she was given a warning for an audible obscenity, in addition to losing the chance for a break.
"If that was an obscenity, then all the players on the tour should be called for it," Navratilova said. "I didn't mean to insult the line."
Sukova held serve in that game, and with both players unable to break, the set moved to the tiebreaker.
The 6-foot 2-inch Czech lost her serve three times in the tiebreaker and that was enough to give Navratilova the first set.
It also gave Navratilova a psychological boost.
"Once I had a set under my belt, the pressure is on her," Navratilova said. "I can relax."