Tennis / Wimbledon '93: Navratilova's spectrum of emotions

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The Independent Online
THERE is no definitive way to prepare for Wimbledon, so Steffi Graf, the defending champion, is hitting thousands of balls on practice courts in London while the No 2 seed, Martina Navratilova, continues to wear her heart on her sleeve here at Devonshire Park.

We shall have to wait until 2pm on Tuesday, at the earliest, to ascertain Graf's grass-court form. Navratilova, in contrast, has run the gamut of winners, errors and emotions on the wet and windy south coast en route to today's final of the Volkswagen Cup.

Her opponent is Miriam Oremans, a 20-year-old Dutch player whose world ranking has risen to No 42 from 138 since the start of the year. Oremans played a smart match in the semi-finals, moving in from the baseline to outscore Lori McNeil, the defending champion, and one of the finest grass-court players in the women's game. It was McNeil's second match of the day. Earlier she had defeated Nathalie Tauziat, of France, 6-1, 7-5 in the quarter-finals.

Oremans proved more durable, winning 7-6, 7-6. She took the first tie-break 9-7 and the second 7-3. In two visits to Wimbledon she has failed to advance beyond the first round.

Navratilova has won the Eastbourne tournament 10 times and has lost in only two of her previous finals.

Yesterday, unlike Tuesday and Thursday, Navratilova was called upon to play once and not twice. Even so, the second set of her semi-final victory against the Californian Patty Fendick, 6-1, 6-3 provided further evidence of her brittle nerve.

Navratilova dropped only one point on her serve in the first set, whereas her opponent, who is ranked No 27 in the world, only managed to hold her serve in the opening game, and in the process had to save two break points.

What appeared to be a comfortable match for Navratilova took a turn for the worse with the first drops of rain. Between pauses to wipe her spectacles, Navratilova contrived to save four break points and lose her temper.

She disputed a line call on a game point, and tossed her racket at the base of the umpire's chair when play was suspended. When the match resumed half an hour later, Navratilova had to save a fifth break point. She then broke Fendick to take a 2-0 lead.

Fendick broke back immediately, and it was fortunate for Navratilova that her opponent's service game remained vulnerable to attack.

Navratilova dropped 26 points on her serve in the set, and had to duel through 14 deuces. 'It was pretty miserable out there,' she said. 'I can't believe how many people were at the match. It was cold, and I never felt comfortable on any shot.'

For all that, the 36-year-old Navratilova is delighted to have had so much match practise on grass. 'Not only that,' she said, 'I'm playing well. Today was the best I've ever played in these conditions. I'm very happy about my game in the circumstances.'

Results, Sporting Digest, page 55