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TENNIS / LISA DILLMAN

Her Serve Doesn't Cut It on Grass

March 30, 2004|LISA DILLMAN

What will it take to get Martina Navratilova to play singles at Wimbledon one more time?

Nothing more than the trifling matter of her serve.

Seriously, if Navratilova were able to put an extra punch on her serve, a few more miles per hour, then you could eliminate the words "probably" and "maybe" from her vocabulary when it comes to grass-court tennis.

In a recent interview with The Times, Navratilova said she was "probably" going to play singles at a Wimbledon grass-court tuneup tournament in Eastbourne, England, in June. Two years ago she lost a bet with her trainer and entered Eastbourne, becoming the oldest woman to win a tour singles match, at 45 years 8 months, by defeating then-22nd-ranked Tatiana Panova of Russia. One round later, she nearly defeated Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, losing in three sets.

An even more intriguing possibility is a final singles appearance at Wimbledon. Navratilova holds a record nine Wimbledon singles titles.

There has been no shortage of encouragement from a variety of sources.

"A lot of the players, some of the male players, say, 'You've got to play Wimbledon. You would beat a lot of these girls. They don't know how to play on grass,' " Navratilova said.

"I need to beef up my serve. If my serve was better, I would play Wimbledon. Right now, not yet. Not ready.

"If I could serve like I could 20 years ago, I would be there. It's not as good as it was then.

"Some parts are actually better. Like my forehand volley."

Cup Error?

Maybe if Vince Spadea defeated reigning U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick, won a tournament in Scottsdale and also defeated Australian Open finalist Marat Safin of Russia, he would have a shot at making the U.S. Davis Cup team for its upcoming quarterfinal match against Sweden.

Oh yeah, that's right. He did all three of those things in the last few weeks.

Apparently, it wasn't enough to sway Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. McEnroe's faith in Mardy Fish seems to be unwavering, even in the face of Spadea's recent surge. McEnroe named his squad on Monday in Miami: Roddick and Fish as the singles players and twins Bob and Mike Bryan as the doubles team.

Fish, who reached the final in San Jose and semifinals in Memphis, has fallen off since, losing in the round of 16 to Roger Federer at Indian Wells and losing in straight sets to French qualifier Julien Benneteau in the second round at Miami.

Spadea, who defeated Safin in Miami, is 3-0 versus Fish. Hurting Spadea, though, was an 0-2 record against Thomas Enqvist this year. In addition to Enqvist, others named to the Swedish team were Jonas Bjorkman, Robin Soderling, Joachim Johansson and Thomas Johansson as a fifth player.

McEnroe was asked at a news conference about the decision to bypass Spadea.

"Vince played himself, obviously, into the running; there's no doubt about that," he said. "But in my mind, for him to take a spot from Mardy or even some of the other younger guys, he's got to be so far and away obviously playing better than the other guys or ahead of them in the rankings or certainly close. I just didn't feel like that was the case in this situation."

Drop Shots

Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, who defeated defending champion Lleyton Hewitt in the first round at Wimbledon last year, is entered in the $25,000 USTA men's challenger at the Calabasas Tennis and Swim Center, April 5-11.

Other players scheduled to appear, officials said, include Jerome Golmard of France, Paul Goldstein and Cecil Mamiit.

An international team event for players 90-and-over, the Goldman Cup, will take place Saturday and Sunday at the Palm Springs Tennis Club. The format features the U.S. against an international team with four singles matches Saturday and four doubles matches Sunday. Officials said the oldest player involved is 94 years old.

Pam Austin was selected as one of three recipients of the Tennis Educational Merit Awards, given each year to those who have made "notable contributions in the tennis education field at the national level." Austin, a teaching pro for 30 years, has been the director of tennis at the Pacific Palms Conference Center in Industry for the last 12 years and serves on the board of directors for the Southern California Tennis Assn.

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