Martina Navratilova, who makes her return to lite tennis competition in 10 days' time, said yesterday that she has no regrets about retiring from regular singles play on the WTA Tour.
"It has been sort of a big relief," Navratilova said. "There are no tuggings at my heart strings. I'm quite happy where I am. I have no reason to come back."
Navratilova will be playing for the United States team in the Federation Cup opening round against Austria on 22 and 23 April. This will be her first Federation Cup appearance since helping the US team win the 1989 title.
It will also be Navratilova's first competition since retiring from the WTA Tour last November after an opening-round defeat at the Tour Championships. "The things I miss, I don't miss - the nerves and training and watching everything you do. Everything is tempered by optimum peformance. I don't miss that. If I miss anything, it's being out there and performing at your best. It's the blessing and the curse as well."
Navratilova has enjoyed snowboarding, something she never felt she could risk while on tour, and stretching her mind.
"I can read books, go to the movies and do pleasurable things for me instead of work on my tennis. Things are much more relaxed. I still have physical training. I don't play as much tennis but I still do cardio-vascular work-outs, lift weights, play basketball here and there. If I miss a day, I don't panic because I don't have a tournament the next week."
Navratilova, who is undefeated in 36 Federation Cup matches, will not play if the US team progresses to the second round in July, but might return if the team reaches the November final. Either way, singles are not in her plans. "I don't know if I would be capable," Navratilova said. "I haven't played singles in almost six months."
Navratilova will play doubles at Wimbledon, paired with the world No 1, Steffi Graf. "I thought about it for months and I finally got the nerve to call her," Navratilova said. "She said yes immediately. I was jumping for joy over the phone."
Navratilova said she will not play at the French Open, but would consider playing doubles at the US Open. "I haven't thought about it," she said. "It's too far away."
The same is true of a possible 1996 Olympic bid. "It's fun to stay sharp without having to play a tournament. It's the only way I could think about the Olympics. For me, they are a long way away."
Navratilova's US team-mates will be Lindsay Davenport, Mary Joe Fernandez and Gigi Fernandez. "It's nice to get that extra support from your team- mates," she said. "I feel less pressure because I'm not all by myself."
Navratilova first played in the Federation Cup in 1975, helping Czechoslovakia to the title. She became a US citizen in 1981 and has played for US Federation Cup squads in 1982, 1986 and 1989.