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Old Times Return for Navratilova

June 18, 2002

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EASTBOURNE, England (AP) _ Just like old times for Martina Navratilova.

Playing her first tour singles match in eight years, Navratilova beat Tatiana Panova of Russia 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 Tuesday at the Eastbourne grass-court tournament.

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

Navratilova, a nine-time Wimbledon champion and 11-time Eastbourne winner, is 45. Panova is 25.

Things didn’t start well for Navratilova, who double faulted twice to lose serve in the opening game. But a nervous-looking Panova then proceeded to lose the next six games with a series of errors.

Panova settled down in the second set, breaking serve to lead 2-0 with a winning pass and exploiting Navratilova’s net-rushing tactics.

Navratilova made a number of simple volley errors, including on set point when she knocked an easy backhand into the net.

But Navratilova rallied patiently from the baseline in the final set, working her way into the net to put away her volleys. She held a break point in the first and third games of the set before forcing Panova to put a two-handed backhand wide to earn a break for 3-2.

That breakthrough appeared to deflate Panova. Navratilova broke again for 5-2 and served out the match. She raised her arms in triumph when Panova slapped a backhand into the net to end the contest.

Navratilova won 167 singles and 166 doubles titles in her glittering career, including three Australian Opens, two French Opens and four U.S Opens.

The Czech-born U.S citizen came out of retirement in 2000 to play doubles and last month won the doubles title with Natasha Zvereva at the Madrid Open.

Navratilova took a late singles wild card into Eastbourne after losing an unspecified bet with her personal trainer. She is entered in doubles only at Wimbledon with Zvereva.

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