Navratilova step closer to 10th title

June 29, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England -- Martina Navratilova is living a dream. There isn't any doubt about that.

The nine-time Wimbledon champ wants title No. 10 before she retires at the end of this season.

So what happens?

She comes to Wimbledon. She gets insulted. "Too old, too slow," said Jana Novotna, last year's Wimbledon runner-up.

Then she gets incredibly lucky.

No. 1 seed Steffi Graf is beaten in the first round. No. 2 seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario is beaten in the fourth.

Then yesterday, she defeats Novotna, 5-7, 6-0, 6-1, to become the oldest women's semifinalist of the modern era.

And who stands between her and the Wimbledon final? American Gigi Fernandez, the lowest-ranked woman ever to make it to the semifinals.

Not Mary Joe Fernandez.

Gigi. The woman who has been ranked No. 1 in doubles most of her career is ranked 99th in singles. The one who emerged from her match with Zina Garrison-Jackson with a 6-4, 6-4 victory, a pulled quad muscle in her left leg, a pulled hamstring in her right and then said:

"Doubles are more important to me than singles, actually. Natasha [Zvereva] and I are still on course for a doubles Grand Slam. We won the Australian and the French, so that's still one of our goals as a team."

And what about Martina, on Centre Court tomorrow, in the women's semifinals?

"It's just another match," she said.

In tomorrow's other semifinal, Lori NcNeil will face No. 3 seed Conchita Martinez. Early yesterday, McNeil beat Larisa Neiland, 6-3, 6-4. In the afternoon, Martinez held on for a 6-2, 6-7 (4-7), 6-3 victory over Lindsay Davenport.

Fernandez hadn't won a singles match -- a match, not a tournament -- since last February until she got to the pre-Wimbledon tournament at Eastbourne.

"I've been playing well this week," said Fernandez, 30. "I've been serving well and returning well . . . I've been fighting for every point."

So has Navratilova, who said yesterday that she has done "a lot of homework on my head and my heart."

Navratilova said she tried not to have expectations for her last Wimbledon, but is now thrilled to be in the semifinals. "What surprises me is how well I won those matches to get here," she said. "I mean, I'm just happy that I've been able to pull myself together and play great tennis, better tennis every single match. I played better yesterday than I did today, but I played well enough."

Fernandez isn't expecting or predicting anything. Navratilova is one of her best friends. They both live in Aspen. They train together, lift weights together.

"I was kind of rooting for her to win this at the beginning," Fernandez said. "I wanted to see Martina go out and finish her career winning Wimbledon one more time. But now I have to play her, so I have to kind of forget about all that for a match."

TODAY'S FEATURED MATCHES

Centre Court

* Pete Sampras (1) vs. Michael Chang (10)

* Guy Forget vs. Goran Ivanisevic (4)

Court 1

* Boris Becker (7) vs. Christian Bergstrom

* Wayne Ferreira vs. Todd Martin (6)

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