Navratilova bids final farewell still tied with King for titles record

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The Independent Online

Martina Navratilova bade farewell to Wimbledon as a competitor last night, 30 years after winning her first singles title, having failed in her attempt to set an outright record for titles at the All England Club.

The 49-year-old Czech-born American, unbeatable in her heyday, vowed to come back as a spectator, but called it a day as a player having lost 7-5, 6-1, alongside Mark Knowles yesterday in the third round of the mixed doubles to Vera Zvonareva and Andy Ram. She also competed in the women's doubles yesterday, losing in the quarter-finals. Her final Wimbledon titles tally thus remains 20, including 11 in the singles, keeping her level with Billie-Jean King, who also won 20, six in the singles.

Navratilova turns 50 in October and has said 2006 will be her last year on the circuit. She won her first title at Wimbledon in 1976 and her last in mixed doubles in 2003 to equal King's record. Her haul comprises nine singles, seven doubles and four mixed doubles. In a professional career spanning more than 30 years she won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, and a record 167 singles titles in total - more than any man or woman. She also won 174 doubles titles.

Her immediate future, she says, will be spending time with her "one and only" and with her pets, and promoting her businesses, including a new book. She says she has no plans, yet, to enter tennis politics, which many believe would suit her. "If that happens, it happens," she said. "I'm not looking for it. Because if I did, then that would be the only thing I would do. So I don't know."

Asked what she will miss about Wimbledon, she said: "I won't miss it. I'll be here. I'll be back, I just won't be playing. I think I'll just miss the competition, the having to perform under pressure. You know, hitting shots that maybe I never hit before."

She said her body is quite capable of playing on, if she had felt like it. "My body is doing amazingly well - I probably could do it another five years if I wanted to, but I don't want to."

The last 30 years have taught her much, she added: "I think most of all I've just learned to be a better listener and to appreciate every moment and appreciate everything that I've done and everything that I'm still doing. Just be grateful, really. Be grateful. Totally humbled by life. Humbled by Wimbledon. Just try to be a better person, period."

After her last singles final in 1994, when she lost to Conchita Martinez, she said: "I hope that when I stop playing people will think that somehow I mattered."