Navratilova Still Chasing Records at 46
Navratilova Still Chasing Records at 46
© Professional Sport
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Watch out, Martina’s back! Not 22-year-old Martina Hingis, but her 46-year-old namesake and holder of nineteen Wimbledon titles, Martina Navratilova who is bidding to equal the all-time record of 20 Wimbledon titles in all events at the All England Club, held since 1979 by Billie Jean King.
There is no obvious reason why yet another record should not be annexed by the incredible Navratilova, who was honoured by the Women’s Tennis Association in April for her “Super Slam” when this year she became the first player, man or woman, to win the singles, doubles and mixed titles at all four Grand Slams during her career.
Presenting Martina with a globe with the four Grand Slam cities marked with diamonds, the WTA chief executive, Larry Scott, called it “a stunning achievement, and one that is not likely ever to be repeated.”
The historic mark was set at the Australian Open in January when Navratilova, in partnership with Leander Paes, captured the mixed title to complete the one missing segment of her incredible 30 years in top tennis.
“When I first started I wanted to be the youngest to win something, but that didn’t happen,” she said at that April ceremony. “I then figured if I hung around long enough I could be the oldest.”
Martina will again play the Wimbledon mixed event with Paes, while she will compete in the doubles with the 18-year-old Russian, Svetlana Kuznetsova, with whom she has already won three titles this year – Gold Coast, Dubai and Rome. The Rome victory came an astonishing 28 years after Navratilova won her first doubles title in that city with Chris Evert.
In fact, Martina arrives at Wimbledon with four women’s doubles to her credit this year, the other having been won in partnership with Liezel Huber at Sarasota.
When she retired in 1996 it was a certainty that no one would ever surpass her collection of 167 singles and 165 doubles titles. What came as a welcome - and surprise - addition to that record was Martina’s decision in 2000 that she was not only fit enough to come back onto the circuit but good enough still to win matches and titles.
Now, though she declines to become involved in singles, she remains an excellent enough exponent of the doubles art to have upped her career total to 170, with no sign yet that the amassing of honours is coming to an end.
Wimbledon, of course, is at the heart of her marvellous record, with those nine singles crowns, including six in succession between 1982-87, seven doubles and three mixed. The irony is that Navratilova partnered Mrs King to her 20th Wimbledon title, the doubles in 1979, a fact which should offer an extra lift to her own record-seeking determination at this year’ s Championships.
Despite their combined age of 75, Navratilova and Paes won the Australian mixed without dropping a set. As ever, she is canny in her selection of partners. She admits waylaying Paes at the US Open last September, knowing what an excellent doubles performer he is, and practically instructing him to team up with her.
The choice of Kuznetsova was equally smart, as she explained after their win in Rome last month: “I needed somebody who hits the ball harder than me, and Svetlana does that. She’s a good listener, she’s very eager and she’s got a great attitude, which is something that’s really hard to teach.”
Of her own attitude, Martina says, “I know I’ll never be the best again. I’m not the best doubles player out there. But I want to be the best I can be at this time. It’s just the desire to excel. I don’t know another option.”
And how much longer does she wish to excel? “Just this year for now. I’m not worried about next year. I always played it one year at a time, no reason to change now. So long as I have a good time and enjoy it, that’s as long as I’ll be playing.”
And who is to say that, if she should overtake Billie Jean’s Wimbledon record, Navratilova won’t set off in pursuit of the all-time Grand Slam titles record of 62 held by Margaret Court? That win in Australia was her 57th.
Written by Ronald Atkin