There are a few things bothering Martina Navratilova as she prepares to defend her title in the U.S. Open tennis championships starting in New York today, but her ankle isn't one of them. Navratilova said she is fully recovered from an ankle injury she suffered playing basketball this summer.
"I'm in as good a shape as I've been all year," Navratilova said. "My problem is not having enough practice time before the tournament. That's the only thing that worries me."
Well, maybe not the only thing.
"The Open is probably the most unpredictable tournament in the world because of the conditions," Navratilova said. "The planes, the people, the wind, the scheduling--there's no telling what you have to go through."
Worst of all, Navratilova fears she may have to go through Steffi Graf to win her fourth Open title in five years. She has split Grand Slam finals with the 18-year-old West German this year, winning Wimbledon but losing the French Open. Later, Graf moved into the No. 1 ranking by winning the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles at Manhattan Beach last month. She defeated Chris Evert, who had eliminated Navratilova in the semifinals.
"She's not feeling any pressure," Navratilova said of Graf. "She's just an 18-year-old who rolls out of bed and wants to hit tennis balls."
Graf is seeded No. 1 at the Open, ahead of Navratilova and Evert.
"Chris and I are the challengers now," Navratilova said. "It will be a new feeling for both of us."
Add Martina: Robin White, who lost to Navratilova in a tuneup tournament at Philadelphia last weekend, said she thinks Navratilova isn't playing as aggressively as she used to.
"She's seems more willing to stay on the baseline," White said. "I think she's lost a little bit of confidence coming in (to the net). She has a different type of game plan. Her game isn't as sharp this year."
White said that Graf's emergence has put more pressure on Navratilova.
"Steffi's gaining on her, and Martina is hearing the footsteps," she said.
Poor Pat Cash. Ever since he won at Wimbledon, people won't leave him alone.
"People think I'm an interview machine or autograph machine," said Cash, who is seeded only seventh at the U.S. Open.
Cash has made television commercials and done the talk-show circuit. He also found time to lose at the Canadian Open to Sweden's Peter Lundgren, whom he will play in the first round at New York.
"Things take a little bit more organization than before," he said. "I used to be able to go anywhere and practice, but now people are always watching.
"To put it truthfully, I've done about two things I have wanted since coming to New York and doing about 150 interviews. It gets very tiring."
There's one quick cure for that: Lose to Lundgren again.
Trivia Time: Before Ben Johnson defeated Carl Lewis in a world-record 9.83 seconds at Rome Sunday, who had run the fastest 100 meters, regardless of wind, altitude or any other unusual conditions? (Answer below.)
The Minnesota Twins will say that the recent harmonic convergence of the planets had no apparent effect on Detroit, where the Tigers can't even get home plate lined up with the pitcher's mound.
According to the Twins, home plate in Tiger Stadium isn't properly in line with the pitcher's mound. This, they say, may help explain how the Tigers won games against the Twins Aug. 18 and 19 by a combined score of 18-3.
Gary Gaetti of the Twins said: "Home plate is off center with the pitcher's mound. It only takes an inch or two to throw things off. And (the Tigers) play here all the time, so they should be more familiar with it."
Gaetti added: "I'm serious."
Sparky Anderson, the Tigers' world-weary manager, said: "Tell them we turn it slightly every time Minnesota comes in. We don't turn it for anybody else, just Minnesota."
Sparky added: "I'll tell you, you stay in this game long enough and you hear every excuse in the book."
Chicago Cub Manager Gene Michael has offered to help National League President A. Bartlett Giamatti get rid of the scuffballers.
"I know what I'm looking for," Michael said. "The league president doesn't. I could show him."
Michael uses Houston's Nolan Ryan as an example.
"With (him), you have to really look close. It's not a scuff. It's more of a buff."
Giamatti declined the offer.
Trivia Answer: William Snoddy of Oklahoma, who was clocked at 9.87 on April Fool's Day, 1978, with about a 25-m.p.h. tail wind.
John Wathan, new manager of the Kansas City Royals on informing his wife he was getting the job: "I asked her, 'How'd you like to be married to a major league manager?' And she said, 'What, is Tommy Lasorda getting a divorce?' "