Tennis: Martina merry by seaside

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IT WAS business unusual for Martina Navratilova here yesterday as she tuned up her grass-court game in the Volkswagen Cup. The No 1 seed got twice she bargained for after Monday's rain forced the postponement of her first-round match.

By the end of the afternoon, Navratilova had advanced to the third round with straight-sets victories, a few hours apart, over Ruxandra Dragomir and Robin White and the nature of her play suggested that last week's early loss in Birmingham was a temporary aberration in her quest for a 10th Wimbledon singles crown.

The Prague-born American has already achieved that mark here since she won her first Eastbourne title in 1978. She thrives in the sea air. Navratilova's compatriot, however, the No 3 seed Mary Joe Fernandez, was off-colour and lost her second-round match to Ginger Helgeson.

Navratilova displayed a lethal combination of athleticism and grace in her defeat of Dragomir, the Romanian qualifier. The 36-year-old Navratilova was cheerfully merciless with an ominous spring in her step.

There was time between points for humour, as well, when a public announcement caught Navratilova in mid-serve. She caught the ball and waited for the message to finish. 'For the information of all our punters, Jo Durie will be at the Nutrimetics stand at five o'clock this evening, ' it concluded. The players looked inquiringly at one another, then headed for the exit before returning to their positions to the uproar of the crowd.

'They were two easy matches physically but it was kind of strange to play two in one day when I have only played five in three months,' Navratilova said.

Before her commercial obligations summoned her to the concourse, Durie, the British No 1, defeated Elena Likhovtseva, of Kazakhstan, in three sets.

Photograph, page 32