Navratilova finds perfect foil in doubles

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The Independent Online

The rain caused serious disruption to the doubles events yesterday, but Martina Navratilova was still able to remain on course for her 20th Wimbledon title.

Navratilova, who will be 47 in October, is still in both the women's and mixed doubles, but it took until late afternoon for her women's quarter-final to begin, and by early evening she and her 18-year-old partner, Svetlana Kuznetsova, had spent more time watching rain fall than hitting tennis balls.

When the rain which halted the Henman-Grosjean match early in the third set hit the All England Club, Kuznetsova and Navratilova had taken the first set 6-4 against the French Open champions and No 2 seeds, Kim Clijsters and Ai Sugiyama. But when the match was halted after 46 minutes, Clijsters and Sugiyama led 5-0 in the second.

Navratilova's partnership with the Russian, who was the world's best junior in 2001, has already brought them three titles this year. Kuznetsova, who at times looks a stocky version of Steffi Graf, seems the perfect foil to Navratilova - expressionless where Navratilova is expressive, her power offsetting the former champion's finesse, and having never seen the legend in her greatest times she may be less in awe of her partner than more experienced players.

They broke Sugiyama to love in the third game and led 5-2. But, at 5-3, Navratilova was broken to 15, and it took Kuznetsova's powerful serve to end the first set in 26 minutes.

But then Clijsters and Sugiyama clicked, Clijsters, in particular, warming to her task as she produced the kind of form that will allow her to go into today's singles semi-final against Venus Williams confident and relaxed.

The winners of the match, which the scheduling committee were keen to get finished last night, will play the fourth seeds, Lindsay Davenport and Lisa Raymond, who did the tournament a great favour by winning in double-quick time. They beat Janette Husarova and Conchita Martinez 6-0, 6-2 in a match lasting 47 minutes, played in three instalments.

Both Davenport and Raymond are past champions, but not together. Davenport won with Corina Morariu in 1999, and Raymond was champion with Rennae Stubbs two years ago.

In the other semi-final, the top seeds, Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez, will take on the winners of the match between Elena Dementieva and Lina Krasnoroutskaya, the 15th seeds, and the unseeded Maria Vento-Kabchi and Angelique Widjaja.

Ruano Pascual and Suarez, last year's top doubles team and Wimbledon runners-up, booked their place in the last four with a 6-2, 7-6 victory over the Austro-Hungarian pair of Patricia Wartusch and Petra Mandula. Pascal and Suarez saved four sets points in the second set, at 5-4 and 6-5, and then took the tie-break 7-3 to beat the rain by a matter of minutes.

The men's doubles semi-final line-up was one set short of completion, when the top seeds, Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi, took a two-sets lead over Martin Damm and Cyril Suk, both on tie-breaks.

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