Navratilova bids farewell to Toronto
Navratilova bids farewell to Toronto
TORONTO (CP) - Tennis legend Martina Navratilova bid farewell to Toronto on Sunday after winning the doubles title at the Rogers AT&T Cup.
"I might play next year, but I know I won't be playing the year after that so this is truly the last time I'll be here in Toronto," the 46-year-old told the thousands who had stayed after the brief singles final to watch the player with the most titles, man or woman, in tennis history.
Navratilova and 18-year-old partner Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela and Angelique Widjaja of Indonesia, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 after Justin Henin-Hardenne of Belgium swept Russian Lina Krasnoroutskaya 6-1, 6-0 to win the singles title.
Navratilova and Kuznetsova were given a standing ovation following the match and when Navratilova stepped to the microphone she could not speak for a full minute over the din.
Navratilova won her seventh Canadian title following singles victories (1982-83, '89) and doubles (1981-82, '85). It was fitting that she was involved in the final match on Centre Court of what will now be called the "old" National Tennis Centre.
After 27 years there, a new tennis facility, the Rexall Centre, is under construction 1.8 kilometres west on the York University Campus and is scheduled to host the men's tournament next year.
"When I get sentimental about a court, I usually take a blade of grass, but I couldn't take a chunk of cement here," Navratilova said with a laugh.
"I first played in Toronto 30 years ago so it's a great way for me to finish out my stint here."
Navratilova's comments indicated she may play in the women's event next year in Montreal, but will not be back in 2005 when the tournament returns to Toronto.
But she earned the gratitude of the tournament organizers for being here this week, especially when she told the crowd Sunday "other tournaments should come here and see how a tournament is properly run."
With the withdrawals of the Williams sisters and Jennifer Capriati and the absence of big names such as Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport and Anna Kournikova, the Rogers AT&T Cup was sorely in need of some star power and Navratilova provided it.
"You could not have scripted this, to have Martina Navratilova in the finals of the Rogers AT&T Cup, the last match on this court, it's a dream," tournament director Stacey Allaster said with obvious relief.
Navratilova was game to talk about anything - tennis or world events - during post-match news conferences and would bring along her teacup-sized chihuahua Chloe, who napped in her owner's lap.
Navratilova backed up her celebrity with solid tennis. While Navratilova is more loved on the tennis circuit than ever before, it is not just the novelty of playing at her age that draws people.
She retired from singles in 1994 and came out of retirement in 2000 to play doubles on the tour again. She has worked her way back to become an elite doubles player, winning her fifth WTA title this year - her fourth with Kuznetsova - on Sunday.
Navratilova also won the mixed doubles at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon with Leander Paes.
"I would say I didn't have any expectations, but if I had any I would have exceeded them," she said.
Navratilova and Kuznekova were ranked fourth in doubles in the WTA points race and want to qualify for the season-ending tour championship in Los Angeles in November. They will compete in the U.S. Open starting Aug. 25 in New York.
"If we play like this, we will go far," said Navratilova.
The young players on the tour are somewhat in awe of her, which can be to their detriment.
"She just feels the game blindly," said Nadia Petrova, who lost in the doubles semifinal to Navratilova. "She reads it like she's reading a newspaper.
"She still has a great hit."
Navratilova's singles prowess during the 1980s overshadowed an incredibly successful doubles career. She and partner Pam Shriver won 109 consecutive doubles matches from 1983 to 1985 and she has now won 171 doubles titles to her 167 singles victories.