Though Martina Navratilova had grown up playing on clay, by the time she emerged as a pro, her game was much more suited to faster surfaces such as grass. Coming into the 1984 French Open, she’d won four Wimbledon titles and one at Roland Garros.
But by ’84, Navratilova had made considerable improvements in all areas. Among the more notable changes: improved fitness and technical upgrades to her backhand, Navratilova’s biting slice now supplemented with a firm and controlled topspin drive. Navratilova had finished 1983 in grand style, winning Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open (from 1977-’85, the Australian Open marked the conclusion of the tennis year).
Navratilova’s first title run at Roland Garros had come in 1982. But that year she hadn’t had to play the queen of clay, Chris Evert, Evert beaten in the ’82 semis by Andrea Jaeger.
In ’84, though, Navratilova and Evert made it to the finals. The head-to-head on clay: 6-1 Evert. But Navratilova’s one victory had come at their most recent match, in the finals of Amelia Island. Still, Amelia Island was not quite Roland Garros, a venue where Evert had won the title five times.
It hardly mattered. Over the course of 63 minutes, Navratilova was in control from start to finish. Utterly smothering Evert with movement, touch, control and power, Navratilova won the match, 6-3, 6-1. “I couldn't find any weaknesses,” said Evert. “I couldn't anticipate the drop shots, I couldn't read her. She took advantage of making me run forward, and I wasn't quick enough. She is playing the best she has ever played. I don't know how much better she can get.”
Navratilova would go on to win Wimbledon and the US Open – six straight Slams.
(with thanks to Randy Walker and Mikki Singh for their app, On This Day in Tennis History)
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