NEW YORK -- So what do ex-doubles partners who have only known each other for a few decades actually do before they wander out onto a tennis court to play against each other in a third-round match at the U.S. Open?
If they're Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver, they split a bagel.
"I had half of one of Martina's bagels," Shriver said. "She kidded that I had better watch out what was in the bagel. And then, she had one of these water cans [bottles] with writing on it, so she asked if I had any black stencil ink to put on to cover up the writing. I gave her a marker and told her that her hand was going to start to burn after 15 or 20 minutes. Other than that, we just sort of small-talked."
The small talk gave way to some decent tennis at Louis Armstrong Stadium yesterday. But, as usual, Navratilova won, 7-5, 6-1.
The Shriver-Navratilova match was the feature in the women's draw at the Open.
No. 1-seeded Steffi Graf had some anxious moments and needed six match points before putting away Eva Sviglerova, 6-4, 7-5. No. 8 Conchita Martinez defeated Patty Fendick, 7-5, 6-3. Mary Pierce retired with a back injury after trailing No. 10 Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, 4-6, 6-1, 5-1. No. 12 Zina Garrison defeated Barbara Rittner, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
Shriver and Navratilova met for the 40th time. They have played at the Open in the 1970s, the '80s and the '90s. This one was like most of the rest, with Navratilova continuing a nine-year winning streak and improving her record against Shriver to 37-3.
"Every year you have a match that brings back history," Shriver said. "And certainly, we have played a lot of interesting matches here. I went out not feeling great. I hadn't played a prime-time TV singles match in a few years. And I hadn't been on the stadium court since 1987. At the start, I was very nervous."
Shriver came back strongly from 2-5 in the first set and was serving to force the tie-breaker. But after getting ahead, 30-0, Shriver absorbed a pair of double faults and lost the set when Navratilova smacked a backhand return.
Shriver slammed a ball, dropped her head into a row of flowerpots, and lost her concentration.
"That second set was probably the worst surroundings I've ever been in," she said. "Between the shadows and paper and the wind, it was weird. It was like the Twilight Zone."
Although they no longer play doubles together, Navratilova and Shriver remain friends.
"She didn't owe me a thing as a doubles partner," Shriver said. "I don't owe her a thing, either. I'm so grateful to have played for so long alongside her. I only have great memories and great thoughts."
After all those years playing together, they can still read each other's moods. They were always on different ends of the political spectrum, Navratilova the left-handed liberal and Shriver the right-handed conservative.
"I'm actually getting more moderate as I grow older," Shriver said.
The moderate is also improving her tennis game. Navratilova said Shriver can find encouragement from the match. In the midst of a comeback from shoulder surgery, Shriver displayed ++ flashes of the serve-and-volley form that once made her a top-four player.
"Pam is playing good tennis," Navratilova said. "The only thing that is missing is quickness. If she guesses right, she makes her shots. If she guesses wrong, it's an easy winner. She could be in the top 10 again. Even No. 6. She's on her way back up."