Martinez on margin

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The Independent Online
She is a former champion, congratulated by her king and feted by her compatriots but she still cannot fill the Centre Court at Wimbledon. The Spaniard Conchita Martinez, the third-ranked woman player in the world, somehow has not got what it takes to attract the crowds.

During Martinez's second-round defeat of the American Lisa Raymond yesterday, scores of seats remained empty as spectators looked elsewhere for entertainment or headed for a reviving cup of tea.

Perhaps they had not forgiven the 24-year-old Martinez for beating Martina Navratilova, the sentimental favourite who was playing her last Wimbledon singles match, in the 1994 final. Or perhaps they just found her style a touch tedious.

Last year Martinez complained that Wimbledon officials were failing to recognise her status as the reigning champion by scheduling her games too often on outside courts. Her heavy-hitting baseline game, honed on red clay, does not, however, set the pulse racing like Navratilova's attacking volleys or Steffi Graf's athletic prowess.

Spectators fidgeted yesterday as she prepared, slowly and deliberately, for each serve. They clapped politely as she passed the outplayed Raymond with her thumping forehand and they looked forward expectantly to the next match.

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