View Full Version : 80's cat fights on the womens tour

07-28-2007, 09:27 AM
Looking back over my previous post in the Mandlikova/Sanchez thread, it comes across more harsh towards Martina and Chris than I actually intended it to be. But I didn't want to further hijack the thread by trying to tidy up things.

So I thought I'd start a thread about 80's cat fights. In the decade of shows like "Dallas" and power struggles between women like Krystal and Alexis, it was appropriate that there were some fisticuffs in the world's most visible womens sport too. And there were plenty.

Here's a few of my favorites:

Chris vs. Tracy -- When Tracy came along, Chris must have felt like the Bionic Woman did when the Fem Bots were introduced. Tracy seemed to be a leaner, meaner, although more mechanical version of herself. For the first time in her life, Chris ran into someone who could play her own game almost as well as she herself could. The 1980 US Open semi against Tracy might be the most important win of Chris' career.

For Tracy, she obviously grew up idolizing Chris. But she chose to move away from the feelings of hero-worship and not acknowledge this. After all, she now had to compete with Chris, not cheer for her from her living room floor. But this hits one of Chris' sensitive buttons.

Martina vs. Hana -- Hana was to Martina what Tracy was to Chris. They played a similar style, and if anyone could match Martina's athleticism and shotmaking, it was Hana. So Martina felt threatened by her. Add to the tempest the politics involved and things were not good between the two for a couple of years.

At 1981 Wimbledon, the committee recognizes Hana's recent success of 3 grand slam finals in a row and 2 grand slams won in a row, mostly recently the French which included a rare Evert defeat on clay. Even though she is only 5th on the computer (which made no sense), they made Hana the #2 seed over Martina. Martina complains bitterly, but is destined to meet Hana in the semis. She fails to back her talk up as Hana wins 6-1 in the 3rd.

But after losing to Martina in the 1984 French semis, Hana mocks her during the press conference implying that playing Martina was like playing a man. The two met the next day in the doubles final and Hana was seen doing muscle-man poses at Martina. Funny in a 12 year old kind of way, but incredibly mean-spirited and rude by Hana.

Martina vs. Chris -- Martina usurps Chris as the number 1 player in 1982. Although its very close and comes down to the year end championships, ultimately won by Martina. In 1983, Martina wins 3 of 4 slams, completes a career slam, loses only 1 match, and steamrolls #2 Chris. Martina says that she's now one of the all time greats. To which Chris says, "She's only had 2 good years."

Chris continues to say this well into 1984 even after being beaten soundly by Martina on Florida clay and at the French Open. Chris finally makes her own stand at the 1984 US Open, and then ultimately rekindles the rivalry in 1985. But for a long time she was in denial to what everyone else could plainly see - Martina was indeed one of the greats of all time.

Martina then insults Chris after losing to her 6-0, 6-4 in Houston in 1988. She chalked Chris' win up to more of her own mistakes than Chris' good play. Chris tells a crying Martina during the winners speech that she didn't think she played that badly as the crowd roars.

Then there was matchpoint during their 1988 Wimbledon semi..........

Chris vs. Hana -- Chris is the polished, diplomatic quintessential promoter's dream. She's lovely to look at. Sponsors love her. Tv cameras love her. And she's perhaps the greatest public ambassador that the sport ever had.

Hana is from a communist nation that places more value on frankness than diplomacy. And it shows in how she handles questions from the media. She has problems with English, is somewhat intimidated by the openess of American society, and learned very quickly to distrust those that wanted something from her. A very telling comment from the 1986 Fed Cup in Prague is from Hana about Chris. She says that she hopes Chris will now better understand her having been to Hana's home country.

Chris says things to the press like "I knew I would beat her if I played her at Wimbledon" after beating Hana for the title in 1981. Hana loses a 3 setter to Chris in Paris in 1983 and says, "If I'm healthy and play the way I know I can, I beat her 2 and 2." During the 1984 Wimbledon tournament, the media is anticipating a showdown between Martina and Hana, whom Hana thinks she can beat. Chris takes exception to Hana and anyone else who thinks she's slipping and beats her 6-1, 6-2 in the semis. Then she says of Hana, "Maybe she got pysched up for the wrong match." Not to be outdone, Chris goes from tactful to tacky when after losing to Hana at the 1985 US Open, Chris says that her "heart wasn't in it" and that "Martina will beat her." Hana gets the last laugh when she defeats Martina the next day.

So what are you favorites? Chris vs. Pam? Pam vs. Wendy? Martina vs. Jo? Steffi vs. Sylvia? There were a bunch of them.

07-28-2007, 10:22 AM
I think Steffi and Claudia were not too fond of each other too. I did not know there was any problem between Steffi and Sylvia Hanika though. Sylvia didnt even last very long as a top player either, and was right out of it once Steffi became a star.

07-28-2007, 11:54 AM
I think Steffi and Claudia were not too fond of each other too. I did not know there was any problem between Steffi and Sylvia Hanika though. Sylvia didnt even last very long as a top player either, and was right out of it once Steffi became a star.

Ooooo it's one of the good ones. I think they played each other at the 1984 US Open. By that time, Steffi was already getting a lot of attention. She lost to Hanika, as expected. And then Hanika told her something to the effect that she would never beat her. She was trying to intimidate Steffi I suppose to maintain the mental advantage over her for future matches.

I never knew about the story until they met in the Virginia Slims Champ. in 1987. The commentators recounted the story of of the match 3 years earlier. Steffi downplayed the story of the "feud" between them. But it was said that they were still not on speaking terms. And Sylvia was a little more vocal about it than Steffi.

I think whatever friction there was between Steffi and Claudia themselves ended fairly early. But their fathers may have continued their rivalry.

07-28-2007, 02:39 PM
Tracy treated Chris with something close to open disdain when the rivalry really started to heat up and Tracy really started to threaten Evert. Graf treated Navratilova with almost the same kind of attitude once Steffi became #1. That 1980 US Open semifinal was indeed one of Chris' most important wins throughout her whole career, and even Chris herself was quoted as saying to her father before the match that she would admit once and for all that Tracy was the better player if she didn't win. In the end though Chris did what a champion does best, which is find a way to win.

Martina and Chris had a very hot/cold relationship throughout their careers. They were friends one minute and not so friendly rivals the next. An interesting relationship to say the least. I do feel that they are friends now though since they no longer have to try to beat one another constantly. Martina was the one who introduced Chris to her then soon to be second husband Andy Mill, which after 18 years of marriage has sadly ended just recently.

Mickey Finn
07-28-2007, 04:20 PM
Cat fights! Did someone say cat fights!?

Suwanee4712 seems knowledgeable on the topic; may I recommend a thread on 1990's cat fights. Hingis, for one, had many spats with fellow pros -- the best were with Kournikova. Here is an excerpt from a Sports Illustrated article on tennis fueds.

THE QUEEN vs THE BEAUTY: After the older and more advanced Martina Hingis embarrassed Anna Kournikova 6-0, 6-0 at the 1994 Junior US Open, the acid-tongued Russian reportedly told her: "You won, but I'm prettier and more marketable than you." Round 1 in post-match repartee to Special K!But Hingis was surely right when in 1998 she crowed, "I'm sure she would like to change places with me, if she could, and have four Grand Slam titles."In November 2000 the two vixens staged a raucous lockerroom catfight (they reportedly threw trophies and bouquets at each other) at an exhibition in Santiago, Chile, that caused Hingis to dump her as a doubles partner."Martina asked if I thought I was the queen - because the real queen was her," Kournikova told the media. Later, in the clubhouse, Kournikova threw a crystal vase at Hingis that smashed on the floor.The talented twosome happily settled their differences. They reunited as a doubles team in 2001 and captured their second Grand Slam crown together at the 2002 Australian Open.

The Gorilla
07-28-2007, 04:21 PM
I thought they played doubles together?

08-01-2007, 10:26 PM
Does anyone find this topic a bit sexist? Devoting a thread to "catfights of the eighties"

08-01-2007, 10:28 PM
I don't think this is what Billie Jean had in mind when she fought for more respect and attention for the women of this sport

Mickey Finn
08-01-2007, 10:57 PM
People enjoy competitive conflict on both tours if it doesn't cross a line. The term "Catfights" is used in levity. I don't see how this thread is any more sexist than a thread on male feuds.

I think Billie Jean King is smart enough to realize that conflict draws fans to a sport. "Catfights" could be regarded as a demeaning term, but are the fights between John McEnroe and Connors or Lendl appreciated on a more noble level?

Common, lighten up. Tennis enthusiast like myself enjoy the sport even with no personalities. If the players want to make their huge prize money and endorsement fees, they need petty conlicts and media issues to bring in the non-tennis fans.

Sorry if Billie Jean might be offended, but I am quite sure she understands the dynamics. Don't take the term catfights too seriously, BTurner, people are just having some fun with personality conflicts that add spice to the game.

08-05-2007, 06:58 AM
Does anyone find this topic a bit sexist? Devoting a thread to "catfights of the eighties"

I'll be more than happy to start a thread about "man-flicts" on the mens tour if this will soothe your feelings.

08-05-2007, 07:48 AM
My favourite has to be 1997 Wimbledon. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Jana Novotna were doubles partners for some time but it was reported they had a spectacular falling out.

So when they met in the Wimbledon semifinal they were literally aiming the ball at eachother during the net exchanges! And when Jana won the match they hardly touched hands or looked at eachother.

But the best moment was the interview after the match when the announcer asked Arantxa of Jana's chances in the final - Arantxa, with the words almost spitting out of her mouth said "she choked in the 1993 final, let's see if she chokes again"! The way she said those words she was almost choking herself. Great stuff!

I also read in Seles' book her recounting of her second rd match against "Hurricane" Helen Kelesi in the 1990 French Open. Seles decided to play doubles with someone else (probably Betsy Nageltson) and told Helen, who apparently took it as a slight really badly and promised Seles what she was going to do to her during the match - with a few expletives thrown in. Hurricane Helen actually won the first set but Seles took the match in over 2hrs.

08-05-2007, 12:52 PM
How about the infamous bumping incident between Venus Williams and Irina Spirlea at the US Open?