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Navratilova Within Reach of Major Records

June 15, 1991

BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) _ She broke the record she wanted most by winning an unprecedented ninth Wimbledon singles title last summer, but Martina Navratilova is not yet ready to stop rewriting the history books.

Navratilova, 34, is just three behind Chris Evert’s total of 157 singles championships and also three shy of Billie Jean King’s record of 20 Wimbledon singles and doubles titles.

″Yes, I think about Chris’ record because I’m very close now,″ she said. ″Billie Jean’s is within reach too. It’s possible, but that one’s farther away. So Chris’ is the one I’m aiming for now.″

Navratilova said it was a great relief when she broke the Wimbledon singles record she had shared with Helen Wills Moody. But that does not mean she has lost her determination to win again.

″It’s not an all-encompassing quest to win, so I’m much more relaxed,″ Navratilova said after a victory this week at the Edgbaston grass-court tournament.

She said her age is not a handicap when she faces youngsters such as 17- year-old Monica Seles, the world’s No. 1 player, or 22-year-old Steffi Graf, ranked second.

″Physically I feel better than last year,″ said Navratilova, who is ranked fourth. ″I get some aches and pains in my body but I don’t have to worry about my knees holding up or about breaking a record.″

Navratilova also said she has not been disturbed by the publicity surrounding a $10 million suit filed by long-time companion Judy Nelson. The lawsuit claims Navratilova broke a cohabitation agreement.

Though she has cut back her tournament schedule, Navratilova pointed out she still plays as many tour events as her teen-aged opponents.

″People say I’m cutting down because of my age when I’m playing the same number of matches as the 16-year-olds,″ she said. Navratilova said she plans to play for several more years because she still has a lot to learn.

″Sometimes I’m amazed I was able to win knowing as little as I did,″ she said. ″There are new techniques, new strokes, hitting the ball to a different place because I’ve been hitting it to the wrong place all the time and never knew, how to play in the wind...″

After so many years that may sound like too much to worry about, but Navratilova insisted she enjoys it all.

″We have a lot of fun practicing. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere,″ she said. ″And we get to play tennis, which is great. What more could you want?″

What some of the top women’s players want is more money. Navratilova has led the call for women to be paid the same as men and said it is simply a case of due reward for hard work.

″When I started playing there was no money so you truly started playing the game because you loved it and wanted to win,″ she said. ″Because there is money now I’m still playing. If there were no money I would have had to go back to college and get a job like anyone else.″

Navratilova said the amount of money available has made tennis more competitive.

″The money we make is unbelievable, but you can have a very, very average baseball player who gets thousands of dollars guaranteed,″ she said. ″Yes, we get endorsements but you have to prove yourself before you get those.″

But she is pleased to point out that sportsmanship still exists.

In Navratilova’s third-round victory this week over Maya Kidowaki, the Japanese player admitted being hit by the ball as it flew out of bounds - even though the umpire initially awarded the point to Kidowaki.

″I said, ’Wow, sportsmanship still lives,‴ Navratilova said. ″Everybody’s thinking about the rankings and the prize money, so the players aren’t as ready to give away points as they were.″

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