Tennis: Martina pockets loose change

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The Independent Online
MARTINA Navratilova won pounds 2,500 on her first visit to sun- baked Beckenham yesterday - small beer for a lady whose career earnings are pushing dollars 20m - but as preparation for her 21st assault on Wimbledon, success in the Direct Line Insurance tournament was a valuable experience.

The 36-year-old American's

6-3, 6-3 triumph over Kristie Boogert, the world No 96 from the Netherlands, was a straightforward affair but Navratilova said of her 164th singles title: 'It's fun to come to a new place - and win as well. My serve was a bit spotty yesterday; today it was better. It's hard to have any rallies with the way we both serve but I was glad to have a little run at the end.'

The 'little run' was an athletic sprint in the final game. Boogert was serving at 3-5 and had double faulted the first point when the rally of the match culminated in Navratilova speeding in to score a cross-court winner from a seemingly hopeless position at the net. A great return of serve and another Boogert double-fault gave Navratilova victory. 'I'm right on schedule,' she said.

The men's holder, David Wheaton, progressed to today's final with a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 win over his fellow American Ken Flach.

Wheaton struggled to find his form early on until he broke Flach early in the second set. Wheaton's wild-card opponent gave a splendid comic cameo. Having slipped on the baseline, Flach handed his racket to a bemused ball-girl who gamely looped a serve towards Wheaton, who politely dived over it. 'I didn't realise she had a bigger serve than mine,' Flach quipped before disappearing under a barrage of even more unanswerable serves from Wheaton.