Navratilova's last SW19 hurrah
Wednesday 05 July 2006
Martina Navratilova, playing at what she confirmed last night will be her last ever Wimbledon, rounded off a good day for the senior citizens of the circuit by advancing to the quarter-finals of the women's doubles to keep alive her dream of becoming the most prolific title-winner in Wimbledon history.
The 49-year-old Czech-born American, partnered by South Africa's Liezel Huber, advanced in straight sets past Russian pair Elena Likhovtseva and Anastasia Myskina, 7-5, 6-0. Navratilova holds 20 titles, including nine in the women's singles. This puts her level with Billie Jean King, who won six singles titles and 14 in the doubles events. Navratilova is also still in the mixed doubles here, having progressed to the third round so far.
Navratilova suggested last week that this could be her last appearance. Asked last night if she had made a firm decision, she said: "Yeah. I think it's time. It's time. It's enough - I just want to move on to my next life, spend more time with my one and only, my animals, devote more time to my businesses."
Jonas Bjorkman was the hardy perennial in the men's game. While seven of today's men's singles quarter-finalists were putting their feet up or hitting a few gentle practice balls yesterday, the oldest man in the last eight by a margin was grafting on court until after 4.30pm. Bjorkman is 34, making him six and a half years older than the next oldest man remaining - today's opponent, Radek Stepanek, 27 - and 14 years older than the whippersnapper in the pack, Rafael Nadal, 20.
Yet instead of relaxing ahead of his biggest Grand Slam singles match for nine years, the Swede was competing in the men's doubles. To add spice, his partner was Belarus's Max Mirnyi, whom he beat in five sets in the singles on Monday. The spice evidently helped. He and Mirnyi advanced to the doubles quarter-finals by beating Martin Garcia and Sebastian Prieto of Argentina 6-1, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.
Today Bjorkman stands one victory away from only his second Slam semi-final. His first, at the US Open in 1997, ended in defeat by Greg Rusedski. The secret of being in the quarters here aged 34, he says, is "no expectations".
"I try to enjoy the moment of being here because obviously I know well my age," he said. "I don't have too many more Wimbledons, and that's why I need to be even more in a situation that I'm going to have to enjoy it."
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