NEW YORK — This one, they'll play from memory.
Pam Shriver and Martina Navratilova, ex-doubles partners and longtime competitors, have met 39 times over 13 years. Tomorrow they'll play again in the third round of the U.S. Open.
"You don't have to put together a game plan for this one," Navratilova said.
Yesterday, both players passed through the second round. Navratilova, the No. 6 seed, defeated Debbie Graham, 6-1, 6-4. Shriver staged a terrific rally to defeat Magdalena Maleeva, 6-7 (10-12), 6-1, 6-2.
For Shriver, the Open is providing additional proof that her comeback from shoulder surgery is coming along just fine. Now, she faces her most difficult test against Navratilova.
"You play a 5-foot tall Japanese girl [Rika Hiraki] and you better beat her, then you play a 16-year-old, the third one of the Maleeva sisters, and you hope you can play well enough to win that one," Shriver said. "Now, it's just that the pressure is off, go for it, and hopefully play a good match and see what happens."
Together, Shriver and Navratilova won 20 Grand Slam doubles titles. But Navratilova holds a huge advantage in their singles' rivalry, winning 36 of 39 matches.
But Shriver's greatest moments against Navratilova have come at the U.S. Open. As a 16-year-old, she defeated Navratilova in 1978 to advance to the final. In 1982, Shriver won again in the quarterfinals, as Navratilova sagged in the third set, feeling ill after catching a virus from a cat.
"We know each other's game so well," Shriver said. "I don't think it really matters when in our lives we played each other. Obviously, you want to be up for it and psyched. I mean, this is about as veteran a match as you can get."