MARTINA SHAKES OFF MALEEVA
NINE-TIME CHAMP OVERCOMES NERVES WITH 6-2, 6-2 ROUT
Wednesday, June 24, 1992
WIMBLEDON, England -- Martina Navratilova, nervous?
The woman who has won Wimbledon a record nine times said she was feeling a little shaky about her first-round match with young Magdalena Maleeva on Tuesday.
Losing in the second round last week at Eastbourne, a tournament you've won 10 times, can made a champion feel vulnerable.
''I've been nervous about this match for a week,'' she said. ''I usually don't find out who I play until a couple of days before, but the press told me right away after I lost at Eastbourne, 'It's Maggie Maleeva.' I had just lost to Linda Harvey-Wild, so I didn't think I could beat anybody at that point.''
Navratilova need not have worried. The champ crushed the kid 6-2, 6-2.
''It was just a solid match, exactly how I wanted to get this one behind me,'' said Navratilova, the fourth seed.
The other top seeds in action Tuesday got what they wanted, too. Easy matches.
Defending champion Steffi Graf (2) beat Noelle Van Lottum 6-1, 6-0. Gabriela Sabatini (3), last year's runner-up, defeated Christelle Fauche 6-1, 6-1. Jennifer Capriati (6), a semifinalist a year ago, beat Chanda Rubin 6-0, 7-5. Mary Joe Fernandez (7) defeated Sarah Bentley 6-1, 6-0. Conchita Martinez (8), making her Wimbledon debut, beat Mary Lou Daniels 6-1, 6-0.
Maleeva, 17, the youngest of the three sisters from Bulgaria, returned only half of Navratilova's serves (21 of 42 points), which averaged 89 mph (first serves). Maleeva committed 34 errors and managed but one break point.
Navratilova lost the first set to Elna Reinach before rallying in the first round last year, but that close call never crossed her mind Tuesday.
''If I were losing, I would probably have thought about it, but that didn't happen,'' Navratilova said. ''The court's playing much better this year, the ball's bouncing much higher. Last year, the court was really, really soft.''
Capriati, 16, who lost to Maleeva in Tokyo this year, confronted another member of her generation Tuesday. Rubin, a month older than Capriati, played her first match at Wimbledon Tuesday, and it showed.
The Louisiana teen-ager, who is ranked No. 84, made 51 errors to 24 for Capriati. It could have been over quicker, but Capriati, up 5-1 in the second set, let Rubin back in the match. Rubin won four games in a row to 5-all before Capriati regained the edge.
''She was really going for it in the beginning,'' said Capriati, who will face dangerous Pam Shriver in the second round. ''I just needed to keep the ball on the court and eventually she would miss. Later on, she stopped going for winners and I started missing a few. I should have just put it away, but I didn't.''
Graf showed Van Lottum, the 100th-ranked player from France, no mercy. The German wanted to erase a tough French Open final to Monica Seles.
''I like to jump back on the tennis court after a hard loss,'' said Graf, who spent the last two weeks practicing in London. ''On the day after I lost, I was here. I like to keep on going, try to forget and look forward to the next tournament.''
Graf's determination is no stronger because she lost the last Grand Slam.
''You don't need anything to motivate you more than Wimbledon itself,'' said Graf, who won the title in three of the past four years. ''I'm keen and eager and I like this tournament very much.''
Navratilova likes Wimbledon more than anything, and she's determined to prove that she can win it again at age 35.
''I hope to prove a lot of people wrong,'' said Navratilova, who faces former UCLA All-America Kimberly Po in the second round today.
''I've been reading that I won't win Wimbledon because I'm 35 years old. Another story says this is very probably my farewell. I will tell you when I'll retire; you don't tell me when I retire. I'm certainly not planning on not being here next year. Those kinds of articles really tick me off. But at the same time, I'm grateful that I'm still here. I have no right to be here, but here I am.''