2004-06-30 09:08:01 UTC
By: Richard Jago
Source: The Guardian (UK) Wednesday June 30, 2004 at
Martina Navratilova renewed her improbable partnership with Leander Paes,
the dashing Goan who helped her equal Billie Jean King's record of 20
Wimbledon titles, and enjoyed a cheerfully eccentric mixed doubles success
which continued her attempt for title 21 yesterday.
During the 6-1, 6-3 win over Sebasti?n Prieto of Argentina and Emmanuelle
Gagliardi of Switzerland, which put her and Paes into the third round, the
47-year-old appeared as passionate as ever about tennis - and possibly more
so given that increasing age has given it special connotations.
Navratilova and Lisa Raymond have already reached the quarter-finals of the
women's doubles, which she may regard as the more important. It is the
partnership with the Pennsylvanian which she hopes will earn an Olympic
medal at Athens in August, when she plans to retire for the second and
presumably last time.
However, it was with Paes that Navratilova won last year's Australian Open,
the only major title missing from her collection and enabling her to become
the oldest player ever to win a grand slam title, and it is the partnership
which has an unusual chemistry.
Even after all these years Navratilova is often a tense and occasionally an
anxious player. Paes certainly is not. Navratilova sat on her racket as if
it were a shooting stick when the crowd insisted on performing the Mexican
wave during the second set yesterday.
She smiled a little but showed she would like them to stop. It was followed
by a blistering backhand return-of-serve winner from Paes, who indicated he
would like them to continue. Everyone laughed at that. This leavening of
humour has served the partnership well. So has Paes's ability to make nimble
interceptions at the net when Navratilova is serving, rendering the
opposition uncertain where to direct their returns.
However, the fiercest of Paes's kills was reserved for a rally in the third
game of the second set in which Navratilova recovered to 30-all in her
service game. She did that with two stretching volleys in either direction,
Paes burying the second reply with a spectacular thump and a celebratory
Forwarded by Eddie Fernandes