Brits Lack Killer Instinct - Navratilova
BRITS LACK KILLER INSTINCT - NAVRATILOVA
June 11 2003
By Ian Laybourn, PA Sport
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova says Tim Henman has little chance of winning Wimbledon unless the All England Club cut the grass.
And, according to the nine-times Wimbledon champion, Britain lag behind other sporting nations because their athletes lack a killer instinct.
Navratilova delivered her forthright views on a wide range of issues in an interview at the Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, where she is competing this week at the pre-Wimbledon DFS Classic grasscourt tournament.
She told how she has only just learned to swim - "properly" - and says, at 46, she is motivated to continue playing tennis as an inspiration to other middle-aged sportsmen and women.
The Czech-born American, who has reached the second round of the doubles in Birmingham, took a swipe at the British press and blamed the absence of a competitive edge for Britain's inability to produce champions.
She said: "Losing is the British way, isn't it?
"The Brits keep trying but they do things for the sake of doing them. They don't have the killer instinct that Americans have. That's OK, as long as you enjoy what you're doing."
Navratilova added "The press here is rough on any kind of talent. They build you up so much and, at the slightest sign of failure, they blow you up.
"You read that stuff and it will get to you no matter what. It's hard to deal with it. You're in such a microscopic world here and the press can really play games with your mind."
However, Navratilova also believes the groundstaff at Wimbledon have not helped Henman to that elusive Grand Slam crown.
"He (Henman) has done well under pressure but they really messed him up last year with the grass being so much longer," she said.
"It was playing so much lower. If it had played like it did three years ago, he could have won it last year.
"It was no accident that you had two baseliners who never serve and volley in the final. That's going to happen again if they keep the grass the same length."
Navratilova, who won her first Wimbledon title 25 years ago, is hoping to play singles again at Eastbourne next week in a bid to improve her doubles play.
On her singles comeback last year Navratilova defeated Russia's Tatiana Panova, a player 20 years her junior and ranked just outside the world's top 20, and intends to cause more embarrassment to the next generation before she eventually hangs up her racket.
"I've been getting so many compliments from people saying they're really inspired to do more with their life, whether it's tennis or just being more healthy," she said.
"Don't let age be the defining factor. I should not be playing at 46 and I'm certainly not playing as well as I did at 26 but I'm playing better than I was when I was 36.
"The balls don't know how old you are. So just get out there and do the best you can and, if you enjoy it, that's the main thing.
"The goal is different and it's a lot less selfish and I think that's why I'm enjoying it so much more."
Navratilova revealed that, at 10st 7lb, she is only two pounds heavier than at her prime and is enjoying the game as much as ever.
"I was about 145 pounds and now I'm about 147," she said. "I've a little more round the waist but I've got good numbers - something like 38, 27, 36.
"If anything, I'm moving better than I did in '94 and I'm not hitting the ball any worse.
"I get a buzz playing tennis - even on clay I enjoy myself - and everything that comes with it.
"I don't just enjoy matches. If that was all it was about, you would spend a whole bunch of time being unhappy.
"I really enjoy getting into the nitty-gritty of it, practising and challenging the body to doing new things.
"I learned how to swim properly. I've known how to swim for a long time but just not very well. I haven't looked good doing it.
"My trainer is a good swimmer and swimming is part of the training. I now look like a swimmer instead of a slasher. All of it is a challenge to me and tennis is a challenge."
Navratilova also has an answer to the age-old question of why Britain consistently fail to produce a Grand Slam champion.
"People ask me why there are so many good tennis players in the Czech Republic and it's because tennis is more accessible," she said.
"There are a lot of clubs and you can be a member for like a hundred dollars a year. You get decent coaching and equipment and it's all accessible.
"Here there's so many more people and not so many tennis courts. It's an expensive sport unless you come from a middle-class family."