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She Bows Out of Singles

Navratilova loses, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, to Argentina's Dulko but defends play.

June 25, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — Martina Navratilova was aggressive to the very end. The last point of her Wimbledon singles career was a charging forehand volley. She yelped in dismay when the ball landed in the net instead of over it.

But when she walked off Court 3 at dusk, a second-round loser but an inspiration nonetheless, Navratilova bowed all around and smiled.

Navratilova, 47 and playing singles here for the first time in a decade, lost to 19-year-old Gisela Dulko of Argentina, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Dulko also had eliminated Navratilova in straight sets in the first round of the French Open.

"I think she's going to be dreaming about me," Dulko said. "This is the most special and rarest win of my career."

Much was made about the lack of depth in women's tennis after Navratilova had won her first-round match over Catalina Castano, 6-0, 6-1. While expressing admiration for Navratilova's superb physical condition, some of the men considered her victory an embarrassment for women's tennis.

"You look at Martina," Goran Ivanisevic said, "[10] years she didn't play a match. That shows you everything about women's tennis. Who is 47 in men's and put him back to play tour? I mean, would be funny to watch, you know? Slow motion."

And Todd Martin, while emphasizing that Navratilova's physical condition was "impressive," also said, "I don't think it's real good for our game to have someone come out after a 10-year absence and win a match. I think it's a little disappointing."

Feisty as always, Navratilova strongly disagreed.

"I think that's a sexist reaction," she said. "Look at how I hit the ball, not at the result. Not at the fact that I'm 47. But how I play."

How she played was classic serve-and-volley, carefully creating angles and frustrating young opponents who have never played women willing to stray from the baseline.

"In the beginning," Dulko said, "I couldn't pressure her because of her volleys. I wasn't used to it. Then I began to understand and see the angles."

Navratilova said she was undecided about whether to ask for a wild-card invitation to play singles at the U.S. Open. She was hoping to be named to the U.S. Olympic tennis team Sunday and to play doubles in Athens with partner Lisa Raymond.

"Now the real tournament begins for me," Navratilova said. "It was always about the doubles and the mixed. I'm ready to, hopefully, win one of those."

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