Navratilova on prowl for final supremacy

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The Independent Online

The ages of the three other players came to only eight more years than the 48-year-old Martina Navratilova. The greatest of champions here had won five singles titles before any of her fellow combatants yesterday had been born. And it showed. Navratilova was still the best player on court.

She is close to reaching a time in life when she should be taking a tartan trolley down to the shops to get cat food. But the tiger dwells within her as one final frontier remains. Navratilova is the holder of 167 singles titles, more than any other man or woman, and she has won the singles, doubles and mixed competitions at all four Grand Slams. Perhaps the only challenge left is to pull away from Billie Jean King, with whom she is tied on 20 Wimbledon titles.

That prospect is now just two matches away, as Navratilova and her German accomplice, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, beat Russia's Vera Douchevina and the unforeseen celebrity of Andrew Murray's mixed partner, Shahar Peer, of Israel, 7-6, 6-4.

Navratilova first arrived in SW19 as a lumpy teenager dressed in indecently short dresses with lapels. The physique, as she approaches her fifth decade, is much more toned. While the legs may preclude any further singles success, her reflexes are intact and continue to make her a considerable doubles force.

Sheer presence probably wins a few points as well. Navratilova was marshalling the ballboys from the outset yesterday, though it took until the third game for her to question a line call. Throughout she cajoled Groenefeld, but it was fitting that the American should have the final say with a slashing backhand volley. It was the continuation of legend, also the end of the Peer show.

Next door, on No 3 Court, a gentle massacre occurred in the Over-35s ladies' doubles when Tracy Austin and Jana Novotna crushed Carling Bassett-Seguso and Mima Jausovec 6-0, 6-1.

Two words described the difference in this match and they were "Jana Novotna". The Czech, who won the women's singles in 1998, is, at 36, a newcomer to this category and took full advantage.

Austin, a squeaky presence on the BBC analysts' couch this fortnight, delivered a service that would not crack an egg, but that did not matter with Jana patrolling the net.

Pleasingly, we shall see the dramatic mane of Bassett-Seguso again in the round-robin competition. Down the years at Wimbledon even the likes of Gabriela Sabatini, Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova have not matched Carling Bassett as a young man's dream.

Not only was she beautiful, but her family owned the brewery after which she was named. She was the complete package until that rotten Robert Seguso came along.