Martina Navratilova, stung by the rejection of her prop
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ Martina Navratilova, stung by the rejection of her proposal to smooth the way for Monica Seles’ return to tennis, lashed out at the top women players.
``The players protect their turf more than I think the tournament promoters,″ Navratilova, the WTA Tour president, said Sunday after notching a milestone 19th Wimbledon title in mixed doubles.
``What’s frustrating to me is that the players benefited the most from Monica’s absence, because they won more money, they won more Grand Slams, because she wasn’t around. And they’re not willing to give back to her perhaps what they gained by her absence.″
Seles announced at the Special Olympics in New Haven, Conn., Saturday that she would come back to pro tennis regardless of the rejection of Navratilova’s ranking proposal, which would have made Seles co-No. 1 and helped her through her first year. Seles will play her first match in an exhibition against Navratilova in Atlantic City, N.J., on July 29.
``Monica may say, `Forget it, I’m going to go in as a wild card and let’s see where I come out,‴ Navratilova said. ``She may get fed up because basically there was an agreement in principle and (the players) took it back. So, I wouldn’t blame her one bit if she said, `Forget it, I’ll do it my way. I won’t need any special consideration because I’ll be playing great tennis.′
``And she will be playing great tennis. She was No. 1, she’s 22 years old. The talent doesn’t go anywhere. Look at me, I’m 38, I’m still going.″
Navratilova, who won a record nine Wimbledon singles titles and is only one Wimbledon title away from equaling Billie Jean King’s record of 20 titles, paired with Jonathan Stark to take a 6-4, 6-4 victory Sunday in the mixed doubles final over fourth seeds Cyril Suk and Gigi Fernandez.
And despite her retirement from singles competition following the Virginia Slims Championships in November 1994, Navratilova left the door slightly open to become a solo act again in 1996.
Delighted with her performance during the mixed doubles, coach Mike Estep suggested Navratilova rejoin the singles game next year.
``Mike’s telling me I should play singles next year,″ said Navratilova, who jumped into Stark’s arms at the end of the match. ``I don’t think I have the nerve for it anymore. When the time comes, if I’m fit, who knows. I don’t think so, but I’m not ruling it out.″
Navratilova is dismayed that the top women in the game aren’t putting out the welcome mat for Seles, who hasn’t played since being stabbed at a tournament in Hamburg, Germany, on April 30, 1993.
Navratilova initially believed the players would support a proposal to co-rank Seles at No. 1 with Graf for six tournaments. That part was generally accepted, but the overall proposal was shot down by everyone, except Helena Sukova, when they couldn’t agree on what divisor should be used to factor her results into the rankings. Navratilova’s proposal would have allowed Seles’ ranking points to be divided by the number of tournaments she played, rather than the minimum 14 over a year that will be used in 1996 for other players.
Among the most vocal in rejecting the proposal were Graf, No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Gigi Fernandez, close friend of No. 3 Conchita Martinez.
Navratilova was also supposed to play women’s doubles with Graf, who pulled out at the last moment while claiming her back and wrist hurt too much to play singles and doubles.
Navratilova’s fans can look forward to seeing her pair with Stark at the upcoming U.S. Open.
``The first time we met each other was right before we walked on court,″ said Stark, whose partnership with Navratilova was arranged by his agent and her previous coach. ``Now we’re planning on playing at the Open.
``And,″ added Navratilova, ``we’re going to the ball tonight together.″