October 13, 1985: The day Czechoslovakia won the Fed Cup for the third consecutive time

On 13 October 1985, Czechoslovakia, led by Hana Mandlikova and Helena Sukova, won the Fed Cup for the third consecutive time.

What exactly happened on that day? : The Three-peat

On this day, October 13, 1985, Czechoslovakia, led by Hana Mandlikova and Helena Sukova won the Fed Cup for the third consecutive time. In the final, they defeated the United States, who were playing without their biggest stars, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

The player involved: Hana Mandlikova et Helena Sukova

Hana Mandlikova was born in 1962. She was a great mover and her game style was full of variety. With her one-handed backhand, she claimed her first title in Barcelona in 1979, defeating Sabina Simmonds in the final (6-1, 5-7, 6-3). She obtained her first remarkable Grand Slam results in 1980, finishing runner-up to Chris Evert at the US Open (5-7, 6-1, 6-1) before triumphing in December at the Australian Open, beating Wendy Turnbull in the final (6-0, 7-5). The following year, she clinched a second major crown at Roland-Garros. On her way, she beat Evert – who had won her 72 last matches on clay – in the semi-final (7-5, 6-4), and in the final, she defeated Silvia Hanika, 6-2, 6-4. After another final reached at the US Open and lost to Evert in 1982 (6-3, 6-1), the Czechoslovakian didn’t play at the same level in 1983, even leaving the top 10, but by the end of 1984, she was back in the top 5. In September 1985, in New York, she accomplished the feat of beating Evert and Martina Navratilova consecutively to claim her third Grand Slam title after she won a close final against Navratilova (7-6, 1-6, 7-6). 

Helena Sukova was born in 1965. Her mother, Vera, had finished runner-up at Wimbledon in 1962, and Helena followed her path, claiming her first title in 1982 in Newport News, defeating Pat Medrado in the final (6-2, 6-7, 6-0), but her first memorable results were obtained in 1984. That year, after reaching the US Open quarterfinals (eliminated by Navratilova, 6-3, 6-3), she accomplished the feat of preventing Navratilova from achieving the Grand Slam, beating her in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open (1-6, 6-3, 7-5). In the final, she won the first set but eventually lost to Chris Evert, 6-7, 6-1, 6-3. In 1985, after reaching the quarterfinals at both Wimbledon and the US Open, she was world No 8.

Helena Sukova - 2017
Helena Sukova in 2017 | © Panoramic

The place: Nagoya, Japan

In 1985, the Fed Cup was still held under its original format, with 40 teams competing during one week in one location. This year, the competition took place in the town of Nagoya, in Japan.

The facts: The semi-final was the final

In 1985, Czechoslovakia was the double defending champion of the Fed Cup. The three-time Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova and the rising star Helena Sukova had already led the team to success in 1983 and 1984. In 1985, with the absence of the top American players, world No 1 and world No 2, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, the Czechoslovakian team was once again the favourite.

At the Nagoya Green Tennis Club, Mandlikova, who had just managed to defeat the two best players in the world to triumph at Flushing Meadows, did not lose a single set before the semi-finals, crushing her first three opponents. Apart from a little scare in the second round against Canada, where Sukova lost to Lilian Drescher, the defending champions didn’t have much trouble setting up a semi-final clash against another Eastern European country, Bulgaria. While Mandlikova managed to defeat world No 7, Manuela Maleeva (3-6, 6-2, 6-1), Sukova lost to Maleeva’s younger sister, aged 16 and already No 28 in the world, Katerina. In the deciding doubles match, Mandlikova and Sukova prevailed, 6-3, 7-6.

The semi-final against Bulgaria proved to be harder than the final. Against an American team deprived of its two best players, Mandlikova and Sukova both won in singles, against Kathy Jordan (world No 19) and world No 27 Elise Burgin. Once the victory sealed, they let Andrea Holikova and Regina Marsikova play the doubles (which they lost, 6-2, 6-3). For the third consecutive time, Czechoslovakia had clinched the Fed Cup title.

What next?

Hana Mandlikova would reach two more Grand Slam finals, defeated by Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1986 (7-6, 6-3) before taking her revenge against the left-handed legend at the 1987 Australian Open (7-5, 7-6). Mandlikova won her last tournament in Washington in March 1987, before injuries plagued the end of her career. She would retire in 1990.

In her career, Helena Sukova would reach four Grand Slam finals, without ever lifting the trophy. Already defeated by Evert at the 1984 Australian Open, she would lose to Navratilova in the US Open final in 1986 (6-3, 6-2). The third player to prevent her from making her dream come true would be Steffi Graf, who would beat her in the final in Melbourne in 1989 (6-4, 6-4), and then at the US Open in 1993 (6-3, 6-2). Sukova would retire in 1998.

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