Navratilova begins finale as easy winner

June 21, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- Martina Navratilova promised herself one last chance at a 10th Wimbledon singles title, and this is it.

Yesterday she began the march with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Claire Taylor, a 19-year-old who once stood in line at 6 a.m. to get onto Centre Court to watch her idol, Navratilova.

"I'm healthy and playing well, so here's my chance," Navratilova said. "I'm going for it with nothing but good thoughts, but I'm not planning beyond the next round. I've got six matches to go."

=1 Navratilova won her first match here in 1973.

Pierce rumors persist

Two days after Mary Pierce withdrew from Wimbledon, London newspapers reported that Pierce, the newest sensation on the women's tour, had received death threats 24 hours before she pulled out of this tournament.

But yesterday afternoon, a Women's Tennis Association spokeswoman said, "There is no known basis for that report."

Pam Shriver, president of the WTA Tour Players Association, said there is no behind-the-scenes talk of threats. Pierce had attended a party at the home of Boris Becker the day before she withdrew. Becker dismissed the death-threat rumors.

"When I spoke with Mary last week, she had been put in a very uncomfortable situation," said Shriver. "I don't think any of us can relate to the press onslaught after the French [Open]. I told her not to read it, but it's hard. Certainly someone in her group was reading it.

"The tabloids were talking about flying her father over. She was facing a very difficult first-round match here and she hates grass, but I think the crowning blow was all the media and the trauma from the French Open. The sudden burst [of stardom] is very traumatic."

Becker said that Pierce indicated to him that the biggest problem was her father.

"I don't want to go obviously into details," Becker said. "But it's quite a new life for her, and I strongly think that she had a bit of a problem with her father. With having a father like that, what could she do, really?

"You know, everything has been so fast now. In about four weeks, she is supposed to save the women's game, and I think she needs time to think about, the whole picture, what she wants to do in tennis. You know, Mary is a very good tennis player, and she doesn't have to fear anybody. I think after she takes a little break, then she is going to be back strong."

Agassi delights again

The Centre Court crowd couldn't get enough of Andre Agassi, as he flitted and flirted and frolicked around the court in an entertaining match with 20-year-old Andrea Gaudenzi.

Agassi won, 6-2, 6-7 (7-3), 6-3, 6-2, blew kisses, bowed and then picked up where he left off last year with an update on his hirsute torso and his love life.

Yes, the chest hair is back.

"A little longer than last year, but not as long as the year before," he said.

Then he was asked about his legs.

"Well, yes, I have shaved them, but it's not clean-shaven. I don't like it clean-shaven because then you deal with the stubble and the itch, and I can do without that."

As for his current girlfriend, Brooke Shields, "She is always invited wherever I am."

He doesn't know if she's coming here yet, and when pressed on how he sees their relationship, he smiled coyly. "I see it very clearly."

MA And then he was gone, into a waiting mass of screaming women.

Becker plays on

Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion, defeated David Wheaton, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3, and afterward said that anyone betting on him this fortnight might be in the money.

"I saw the odds beside my name," Becker said of the 16-1 numbers posted in the betting shops here. "People betting could win a few more pounds on my name than ever before. I think it would be a pretty good investment."

It must be the shorts

The only thing that seemed to irk Agassi yesterday was when it was suggested that Pete Sampras, not Agassi, had introduced the newest style in men's tennis gear at Wimbledon -- big, baggy shorts.

"Oh, really?" Agassi said. "What can I say? I helped design them with Nike, so I was a big part of it. Actually the big shorts was an idea that I came up with, and with the help of Nike designers, got it down to what it is today.

"I mean, when you've got guys like Pete and Jim [Courier] who are with Nike as well, I mean they deserve their credit, too. So they are in on all the new stuff as well. . . . But it was definitely my idea."

Still, it is Sampras who reportedly agreed to a $12 million deal to wear them.

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