2002 Britannic Asset Management

Veteran Navratilova makes winning return

Navratilova showed no signs of slowing down in her defeat over Panova 6-1 4-6 6-2

Martina Navratilova turned back the years by overturning Russian Tatania Panova 6-1 4-6 6-2, much to the delight of the appreciative Centre Court crowd.

The Czech-born American legend, who last competed on the WTA Tour in 1994, has bagged 11 Singles titles at Eastbourne but is unlikely to add to that tally.

But the 45-year-old made a winning return to despatch Panova, who is 20 years her junior, although appeared to be on the rack in the second set until she stepped up a gear to roar away with a deserved victory.

The Russian, seeded #21 at next week’s Wimbledon, explained: “She went to the net all the time and that was very hard for me. “I was thinking ‘She’s 45 and I’m losing’, but she played very well and I felt that she really wants to win.

Navratilova dominated the one-sided opening set, but let her concentration and her legs slip to twice drop her serve that allowed the Russian to square matters.

It was the veteran’s serve and volley tactics, so expertly executed, that finally put paid to Panova who deliberately instigated a string of long rallies to test her opponent’s stamina.

And Navratilova will fancy her chances of upsetting Slovakian rising star Daniela Hantuchova, the #3 seed, when they face-off for a place in the quarter-finals.

Buoyant Navratilova said: “I can still play this game, and I can certainly still play it on grass.

“Don’t look at age, look at ability. If anybody says the women aren’t good then I get really upset because they are good.”

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