Tennis / Wimbledon '93: A Hy old time for Martina

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MARTINA Navratilova completed her first week's work at Wimbledon yesterday in fine style, advancing to the last 16 for the loss of just one game against Canada's Patricia Hy. The No 2 seed's form suggested a place in the final, where she would be playing for a 10th singles title, is almost inevitable.

The message from the American was clear: 'They shall not pass.' Her serve and volley game appears to be approaching its peak and woe betide the opponent who believes she can beat her at the net.

Hy, who is ranked 38th in the world, compared with Navratilova at four, might well have been confident before the match as she had taken the former champion to three sets in the Volkswagen Cup in the third round at Eastbourne last week, mainly by drilling passing shots beyond her reach.

Although Hy began yesterday's match as if she had been encouraged by their previous encounter, it was only a matter of minutes before Navratilova, who went on to win the title at Eastbourne, asserted her superiority.

This was an altogether different occasion, as the Canadian was to discover to her disappointment. Eastbourne is one thing; Court One at Wimbledon is another. Navratilova summoned her wealth of experience and milked the unique atmosphere to overwhelm Hy in the space of 41 minutes.

A similar fate lay in wait for Zina Garrison-Jackson's opponent, but the circumstances were rather more extraordinary in that her victory was over the No 5 seed, Mary Joe Fernandez, who was unable to win a game until Garrison- Jackson, her doubles partner, was serving for the match. Garrison- Jackson broke back in the following game to win.

Gabriela Sabatini, the No 4 seed, was stretched to three sets by the 21-year-old Ukranian, Natalia Medvedeva, ranked 132 in the world, but the Argentinian will be thankful for some hard match practice.

Other women to advance swiftly to the last 16 included Germany's Anke Huber, who beat Florencia Labat, of Argentina, 6-4, 6-3, and France's Nathalie Tauziat, who defeated Lindsay Davenport, of the United States, 6-3, 7-6, to face Navratilova in the next round.

The first few games of Navratilova's match certainly showed that she was the better player, but there was scarcely an indication of what was to follow. Navratilova had more force on her first serve and greater agility at the net, but the Canadian looked solid as she held her first service game. Then, at her next turn to serve, it all began to disintegrate.

Navratilova took advantage of Hy's sudden tentative mood to break serve with her third break point after a series of unforced errors from the Canadian. At 3-1 down in the first set, there was still a chance for Hy to get back into the swing of the game. But the American was ruthless and reeled off nine straight games to take the match.

She was obviously enjoying her own skills, smiling and pumping her fist when she played a good shot - and there were many. Hy's errors began to multiply and she was unable to stem the tide created by the victor's overflowing confidence. Navratilova said she was most happy with her serve 'because it's really coming along. Technically it's much more solid, not so much to break down anymore. When the serve is solid everything else falls into place.'

Watching Navratilova from courtside yesterday was her mentor, the six-times Wimbledon singles winner, Billie Jean King, who was advising her fellow American, if that is possible. King amassed 20 titles her in singles, doubles and mixed doubles while Navratilova has a total of 17.

She said King's record was: 'A long way away. I'll be quite thrilled if it happens and I'll be quite thrilled if it doesn't because the holder of the record is a wonderful human being - and she is helpingme to break it. That's what I find amazing.'

There have been suggestions that this may be Navratilova's final Wimbledon but she was quick to deny this was a fact. 'Quite frankly, it has not entered my mind that this could be my last one,' she said. 'It could be but I don't know. I thought at the beginning of the year that the chances were that this was my last year. Right now, I really don't know, and I really don't care.'

(Photograph omitted)