Martina Navratilova defeated Barbara Potter, 6-2, 6-4, Saturday to advance to today's final of the $75,000 Audi Challenge tennis tournament at the Rancho San Clemente Tennis and Fitness Club in San Clemente.
Navratilova, ranked second in the world and the tournament's top-seeded player, will meet Pam Shriver today at noon.
Shriver, ranked fifth in the world, needed only 56 minutes to defeat seventh-ranked Zina Garrison, 6-1, 6-0, in an earlier semifinal match.
Potter, ranked 15th, played a serve-and-volley game from the start, but Navratilova used great anticipation and passing shots to offset Potter's attack at the net. With Potter serving at 2-2 in the first, Navratilova fired back two cross-court returns for winners, breaking Potter for a 3-2 lead.
Navratilova, also playing an aggressive game at net, broke Potter's next serve for a 5-2 lead with a topspin lob, a slice and two forehand winners, one of which Potter sent sailing into the grandstands. Potter made three unforced errors in the next game to lose the first set.
In the second set, Potter became more aggressive, rushing the net at almost every opportunity, yet she couldn't secure a break. Though her volleys were fierce when on target, Potter began losing control at the net, and she lost her serve in the third game to allow Navratilova the lead, 2-1.
"I knew it would be a matter of holding serve," said Navratilova, who has won six consecutive Wimbledon titles. "She's aggressive, but once she went down a break in the second, I think she felt she was in trouble."
If so, Potter didn't let on. After Navratilova held serve for a 3-1 lead, Potter served four straight points to take the next game. Navratilova responded in the next game with four straight points of her own, including two aces, to go up, 4-2.
Potter then showed her best effort of the match. After losing the first two points, Potter overpowered Navratilova with a series of stunning volleys and served two straight aces for the game.
But Navratilova held her next serve with the serve-and-volley game that suits her best: powerful, yet very precise. Potter, facing everything from deceptive lobs to deft net play, managed to hold serve to get to 5-4.
Ironically, the two serve-and-volley players fought the final game from the baseline, though Navratilova came in for a winning forehand volley at match point.
Navratilova expects another battle at the net today.
"It'll be a footrace," Navratilova said. "Pam and I are both quick; besides holding serve, I'll have to beat her to the net to win. She comes in more than I do and has better reach, I think. But I have a few more weapons."
In the earlier semifinal, Shriver outplayed Garrison from the start, breaking her early in the first set to take a 3-1 lead. Garrison made many unforced errors, including two missed shots and a double fault to drop to 4-1 in the first.
In the second set, which took only 24 minutes, Garrison tried serve and volley but with little success.
Shriver's game was right on target, punctuated with precise volleys and lobs.
"It was too extreme," Shriver said. "I think I had a very good match, and Zina had one where she could never quite hit her stride. She was having a hard time getting a shot to fall."
Shriver, who has beaten Navratilova twice--in the quarterfinals of the 1978 U.S. Open and in the semifinals of the '82 Open--said she believes her tennis has been improving all year.
"This summer I had some good wins (including a career first over Chris Evert in the Canadian Open semifinals)," Shriver said. "I know in my heart I can win those big tournaments now, if I hit my stride just right."
And what about her smaller tournaments?
"Well, that (beating Navratilova today) would be great, of course," Shriver said. "I guess it will come down to holding serves. And when we play and hold our serves, it gets very interesting."