MELBOURNE, Australia — Hana Mandlikova, playing inspired tennis, upset top-seeded Martina Navratilova, 7-5, 7-6, today to win the Australian Open women's singles championship.
When she closed out the match by winning the tiebreaker, 7-1, the 24-year-old Czech became the Australian Open champion for the second time. She previously won in 1980.
Navratilova, the defending champion, was seeking her fourth Australian Open singles title.
The victory, coming in the first Grand Slam event of the year, was worth $115,000 to Mandlikova, who snapped Navratilova's 58-match winning streak. Navratilova, 30, collected $55,000 as runner-up.
Mandlikova's victory was especially pleasing because it happened in Australia. She married Jan Sedlak, an Australian who was born in Czechoslovakia, last year and plans eventually to reside in Sydney.
Going into the final, Navratilova had not dropped a set in the tournament. On this day, she would not win a set.
It was the first victory for Mandlikova in her last 10 meetings with Navratilova and her seventh in 30 career meetings. The last time she defeated the world's No. 1 women's player was in the 1985 U.S. Open final.
Mandlikova, who has applied for Australian citizenship, shook off a poor start in which she lost her serve in the opening game of the match. There were seven service breaks in the first set, with Navratilova actually serving for the set at 5-4.
But Mandlikova took the next six games, coming back in the 12th game from 0-40 to break Navratilova's service and win the first set. Navratilova double-faulted at set point.
After taking a 3-0 lead in the second set, Mandlikova moved to 5-3 before Navratilova came back to force the tiebreaker. But Navratilova was let down by her serve and backhand and was swamped in the tiebreaker, the 10th time Mandlikova has defeated Navratilova in 13 tiebreakers.
Mandlikova was ecstatic after Navratilova hit the ball long on the final point. She fell to the ground on her back, holding her fists high in triumph.
She then ran to embrace Betty Stove, her coach for the last seven years.
"It is always nice to beat Martina. I respect her as a player and a person, and I've learned a lot from her," Mandlikova said.
Navratilova was playing her first tournament since splitting with her longtime coach, Mike Estep, and linking up with Randy Crawford, a Fort Worth, Tex., professional.
"Hana played really good tennis and deserved to win today," she said.
Sunday, the men's singles title will be decided when Pat Cash of Australia meets defending champion Stefan Edberg of Sweden. The winner will receive $103,875.