Navratilova is quick to roll back the years

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The Independent Online

At the age of 47, Martina Navratilova is two matches away from her latest main- draw appearance at the traditional pre-Wimbledon tournament at Eastbourne.

At the age of 47, Martina Navratilova is two matches away from her latest main- draw appearance at the traditional pre-Wimbledon tournament at Eastbourne.

She produced a remarkable performance to race through the first qualifying round of the Hastings Direct Insurance Championship at Devonshire Park yesterday with a 6-4 6-3 victory over the world No 78, Mara Santangelo of Italy.

The nine-times Wimbledon singles champion, who has lifted the Eastbourne prize on 11 occasions, must dismiss Russian Elena Likhovtseva today. Then comes a final match to reach the main field.

Although up against a rival half her age, Navratilova showed her propensity for winning the vital points. And after the first four games all went with service to love, she broke for a 4-3 lead - only to hand it straight back. Navratilova captured another break, however, to claim the opening set, and displayed superb stamina and stealth to wrap up the second with two more breaks.

She had asked for a wild card into the qualifying tournament so she could get in substantial practice on grass for her Wimbledon doubles assault next week.

Navratilova said: "I wanted to play [singles] here last year but I had a bad heel, which didn't let me run any long distances. As soon as I started playing singles points I was in trouble. Now I have a little bit of a tweaky knee, but everything else is good."

The final of today's DFS Classic in Birmingham will be an all-teenage affair between Russia's Maria Sharapova and Tatiana Golovin of France. The 17-year-old Sharapova disposed of the second seed, Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 in the first semi-final yesterday.

Golovin, 16, was also stretched to three sets by compatriot Emilie Loit in the other semi-final, before emerging with a 6-3 5-7 7-5 victory.

Meanwhile, the French Open champion, Gaston Gaudio, has pulled out of Wimbledon because of a foot injury, while Arvind Parmar, Mark Hilton and Richard Bloomfield have received wild cards into the tournament. But the bad news for Britain's Ian Flanagan is that the final wild card has gone to Australia's Todd Reid, which means Flanagan will now have to go through qualifying.

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