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Navratilova becomes grand dame of Games

By Ossian Shine
August 16, 2004 12:23 IST
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Martina Navratilova, the woman who has won everything in tennis, notched another record at the Athens Olympics at 47.

The Czech-born American became the oldest player to compete in tennis in the history of the Games when she teamed up with Lisa Raymond to beat the Ukrainian pairing of Tatiana Perebiynis and Yulia Beygelzimer 6-0, 6-2.

Martina NavratilovaAt the end of the floodlit match, the winner of 58 grand slam titles sat on her courtside seat and looked to the skies, laughing and shaking her head in wonder.

"I was thinking of all the opening ceremonies I have seen since 1964... and also all the Winter Games ... I mean, it's just amazing," she said.

"The first game I was serving, the first ball I tossed up to serve, I thought 'hey, this is your first Olympic toss', and it was a good one.

"After that there were no jitters."

Two months short of her 48th birthday, Navratilova eclipsed the mark of Blanche Hilliard who was 44 at the 1908 London Games and Norman Brookes who competed for Australia at the 1924 Paris Olympics, age 46.

"You know, when you have new experiences at this age, you appreciate it," she said. "It is amazing ... I look around and everyone seems about 12 years old."

Navratilova could not find time for the Olympics while she was at the peak of her powers, and even though she is clearly proud to represent the U.S. at the Athens Games, she still has reservations about certain elements of the sporting extravaganza.

"I have mixed emotions about how the whole thing is run because everybody makes a bunch of money out of it except the athletes," she said.

"That is a bunch of baloney. It's a money-maker for everyone except the athletes. I don't believe in that. But tennis belongs in the Olympics, it's a worldwide sport."

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Ossian Shine
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