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Navratilova to Return Vs. Panova

June 16, 2002

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EASTBOURNE, England (AP) _ Martina Navratilova will play her first singles match in eight years Monday against Tatiana Panova at the Wimbledon warmup tournament at Eastbourne.

The winner of 167 singles and 166 doubles titles, the 45-year-old Navratilova asked for a wild card into the event where she was an 11-time champion. It was granted when organizers failed to attract Jennifer Capriati or Monica Seles.

``I think I’ve played better this year than last year, and I played better last year than the year before. I don’t feel that I’ve reached my peak,″ Navratilova said.

Navratilova last played singles at a WTA Tour event in 1994 but has played doubles since 2000. She has always insisted she had no interest in playing singles, because it would take too much effort to get in shape.

However, she was encouraged by winning the doubles title with Natasha Zvereva at the Madrid Open last month.

The victory, her first in 7 1/2 years, marked her as the oldest woman ever to win a WTA event.

Should she win her opening match at Eastbourne, she would then face third-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, who has a first-round bye.

The Eastbourne field is topped by Jelena Dokic, who will play a qualifier or Daja Bedanova in the second round.

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