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47-Year-Old Navratilova Wins Wimbledon Title

Posted July. 07, 2003 21:47,   


It was 30 years ago when she first played her first Wimbledon as a teenage girl. Then three decades have passed. Her face has deep wrinkles and her sight is not good any more.

She is reaching 50 years old well beyond the age of retirement. Yet, she is still up and running. She is still on the top and a respected player.

The `Iron Woman` Martina Navratilova won her 20th Wimbledon title at the All England Club, teaming with Lenders Paes to defeat Andy Ram of Israel and Anastassia Rodionova of Russia 6-3, 6-3.

She is now tied with Billie Jean King for the most Wimbledon titles. King had won her 20th title at the championships in tandem with Navratilova in 1979.

The naturalized American also became the oldest Wimbledon champion, supplanting American Margaret duPont, who was 44 in 1962 when she won mixed doubles.

The last time Navratilova won a mixed title was eight years ago. ˝Honestly I never thought I`d play here again,˝ Navratilova said out of joy.

˝I asked her to come to Wimbledon and root for me in the 1980s, but she said she would feel too nervous to watch,˝ she also mentioned her friendship with the late American actress Ketharine Hepburn. ˝I want to dedicate this title to her.˝

Navratilova played her first Wimbledon in 1973 when she was 17 years old. And now she has 20 Wimbledon titles - nine singles titles, seven in doubles and four in mixed.

Neither Ram nor Rodionova, who played against Navratilova-Paes in the final, were born when Navratilova won the first of her nine singles titles in 1978. ˝When I was 7 or 8 years old I watched Martina play and she really inspired me to be out here,˝ said Paes.

Competing with young players who are at about the same age as her nieces and nephews, she hardly seems to lag behind in terms of energy. She was as strong as she can be on the day, having the semifinal and final matches in a day.

˝I have to keep my body in good shape as long as I play. I don`t want to limit myself while I can be in good shape,˝ said the 47-year-old tennis player.

Navratilova ranks second in career titles at all the Grand Slam events with 56 — 18 in singles, 31 in doubles and nine in mixed doubles. The women`s record is 62, held by Margaret Smith.

Having won two major titles this year alone, including the mixed doubles title at Australian Open, it seems to be just a matter of time for her to set a new record.

˝The top rank or major titles are more like worldly things to me. I didn`t come back to set a record. I want to enjoy playing tennis, giving encouragement to people watching me. Playing tennis will become a part of my life until the last moment,˝ said Navratilova. She has yet to face her greatest challenge.

Jong-Seok Kim kjs0123@donga.com