Navratilova lost in thrill of history

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The Independent Online

Towards the end of her magnificent career, Martina Navratilova was photographed alongside the bones of a dinosaur in the Natural History Museum, giving rise to Jurassic Park jokes at her expense. On Thursday night, the nine-times Wimbledon singles champion was snapped between two mock rhinos at the Royal Albert Hall after defeating Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in an exhibition match in aid of wildlife conservation.

"This is serious history," Navratilova said. "This is the oldest place I've ever played in, older than the Centre Court at Wimbledon. The acoustics are amazing." She smiled when told about a Wightman Cup tie played at the Albert Hall in the late 1980s, when the Queen arrived in time to see and hear the players treading loose floorboards – Britain's Jo Durie clumping along one baseline, the American Zina Garrison performing a 42nd Street-style tap dance while preparing to receive serve at the other end.

"I can imagine," Navratilova said. "I got lost before the match tonight, and I was under the court when others players were playing. It was like an earthquake down there." After the match, Navratilova raised £2,750 by auctioning her racket, autographed by both players. This was not a record. "It was a very good price, but I've auctioned rackets for as much as $18,000," she said.

Navratilova's trip to Europe was not all fun. "My sister drilled my teeth on Wednesday," she said. "I visited her in Stockholm. She's a dentist. She found a cavity. I didn't know 45-year-old people got cavities. Maybe she was mad at me and just wanted to drill."

She intends to return to Wimbledon next year to do television commentary and play doubles, though not with Sanchez-Vicario. "Arantxa is so good on the backhand and I'm good on the backhand, so we just don't match up well as a team," she said. "I don't know who my partner will be. After leaving here, I'll be in Aspen, working out, skiing and snowboarding and working on my ice hockey game and getting in shape for the season."

Navratilova plays for the Aspen Motherpuckers in a 15-team women's ice hockey league in Colorado, which seems risky. "Actually, hockey is safer than basketball, because you're well covered up," she said. "I need to do those sports to get in shape. I do not do the treadmill thing. I'm not good for long distance, I need to run fast."

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