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Take two players with diametrically-opposed styles, add a liberal dose of related circumstances that enhance the quality of unpredictability, sprinkle lightly with the tradition of a unique and perplexing rivalry, and you have the recipe for yesterday's Virginia Slims final between Chris Evert and Evonne Goolagong.
The third-seeded Goolagong, displaying a complete assortment of her erratic but effective weapons, mixed those ingredients expertly yesterday afternoon, upending number-two seed, Evert, in a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 thriller at B.U.'s Walter Brown Arena.
From the very beginning, you knew this was an Evert-Goolagong match, because nothing that happened could ever have been predicted. The 26-year-old Australian, who earned $20,000 for the win, began with her engines in full throttle, burying Evert in a 4-1 deficit before the crowd had time to settle in its seats.
Evert scored only two points in the first three games, going down 3-0 as the fans stirred in disbelief; but Evert, playing in her first tournament on the 1978 Slims circuit, soon crawled out of the hole.
Known for her composed, calm attitude even in the face of tennis disaster, Evert stormed back with five straight games, patiently working the back line in her patented, mechanical manner. Goolagong, who prefers a more aggressive style of play, lost all the momentum of the opening games and virtually handed over two service breaks and the first set to Evert.
But despite the late-set breakdown, Goolagong, who has been playing with pain killer deadening the effects of an injured left ankle, came back even stronger in the next set, capitalizing on a string of uncharacteristic, unforced Evert errors. The Floridian's usually flawless groundstrokes fell to pieces as the afternoon progressed, and she missed consistently on attempts to pass Goolagong with down-the-line forehands.
"I never got my rhythm," Evert said. "Evonne had the right idea. She broke up the pace and moved me around."
Coming off the fine middle set, Goolagong was working masterfully from the back line, but Evert bounced right back to tighten up the third set, at 3-3.
However, this was not to be the day that would yield a fine end to Everet's return to the circuit. Suffering from an increasingly poor first serve, which all but deserted her in the final set, and a continued inability to connect successfully from the forehand side, Evert's hopes dwindled.
With Evert serving in the seventh game, following consecutive service breaks by both players, two Goolagong volleys that caught the baseline and an Evert error gave Goolagong a 40-0 advantage. Evert fought off two break points with a superb forehand drive and a service ace, but she netted a cross-court forehand on the next point, and Goolagong had the break she needed.
Finishing with a flourish, Goolagong worked the serve-volley strategy which she had abandoned through the middle of the match to perfection. Evert held off three match points, but with the tenth game knotted at deuce, she netted two consecutive backhands which shot the championship over to Goolagong.
Both players called it a very "strange and shaky match," and Evert said there were "far too many errors." Goolagong added, "I know Chris is not producing the best tennis she can, and I know I can do better."
The victory was the first time Goolagong has beaten Evert since the spring of 1976, when she downed Evert in a three-set final to take the Virginia Slims championship.
The loss ended what could have been a remarkable return to competition for Evert, but she said she was happy to have gone as far as she did in this tournament, the first since her self-imposed vacation from the circuit, which began last November.
"I honestly didn't even expect to make the final this week,"' Evert, who picked up $10,500 for second place, said.
Following the singles, in the final of the Bridgestone doubles, top-seeded Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova made short work of Goolagong and Betty Stove, the second seeds, taking a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
In the earlier consolation singles final, sixth-seeded King stole a one-set victory from top-seeded Navratilova, capitalizing on a flat performance by the current Slims circuit sensation for a 6-4 win.
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