Defending champion Martina Navratilova had to struggle Tuesday night at New York to defeat Catarina Lindqvist of Sweden, 6-4, 7-6, in the opening round of the $1- million Virginia Slims Championships.
The victory was the 17th straight for Navratilova in Madison Square Garden since she lost the final of the 1982 Avon Championships to Sylvia Hanika.
In another opening-round match, fifth-seeded Hana Mandlikova of Czechoslovakia retired with a pulled hamstring after losing the first set to Rafaella Reggi of Italy, 7-5. Earlier, eighth-seeded Manuela Maleeva of Bulgaria defeated Claudia Kohde-Kilsch of West Germany, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Reggi said she thought Mandlikova injured her leg while leading, 4-2, in the first set.
"She was serving and then she stopped and felt her hip," Reggi said. "I could tell she was hurting when she was serving after that."
Reggi said she was disappointed that the match was cut short. "It's not good to win like this in a tournament like this," she said.
Meanwhile, Lindqvist saved four match points in the second set against Navratilova and was two points from winning the set in the 12th game. But Navratilova held serve to even the set at 6-6 and then overpowered Lindqvist in the tiebreaker, 7-1.
Lindqvist continually put pressure on Navratilova by rushing the net behind deep approach shots.
"When she approaches, she really doesn't give you a chance to pass," said Navratilova, who is seeking her fifth straight Slims title. "She comes in on huge shots and all you can do is lob back."
The highlight of the match was the 10th game of the second set, which lasted 18 points and included 6 deuces, 4 match points for Navratilova and 4 break points for Lindqvist.
The 24-year-old Swede finally won the game--and evened the set at 5-5--with a backhand cross-court winner.
"She hit some great shots on match points," Navratilova said. "She was getting the ball at my feet, she was ready for my serve and she nailed those backhands on the line."
Lindqvist won the first point of the tiebreaker, but Navratilova then reeled off seven in a row to win the match before 10,939.
"I won the tiebreaker with authority," said Navratilova, who is ranked second in the world, behind Steffi Graf. Lindqvist, ranked 17th in the world, has an 0-8 record lifetime against Navratilova, including a 6-0, 6-4 loss in the fourth round at the U.S. Open.
"I didn't play well, I didn't play badly," said Navratilova, who next faces Gabriela Sabatini. "Maybe it was a little below average, but it was OK."
Fourth-seeded David Pate and sixth-seeded Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland won first-round matches in the $375,000 South African Open at Johannesburg. Pate beat Carl Limberger of Australia, 6-1, 7-6. Hlasek defeated Jim Courier, 6-2, 6-2.