New York: Martina Navratilova is not getting any younger, but she is certainly not showing her age.
The 45-year-old American showed she can still hang out with the younger crowd with two doubles successes at the US Open.
In front of a capacity crowd at Louis Armstrong Stadium on Friday, Navratilova teamed up with India’s Leander Paes to oust top seeds and defending champions Rennae Stubbs and Todd Woodbridge of Australia in the first round of the mixed doubles.
Less than 24 hours later, she joined forces with Uzbekistan’s Iroda Tulyaganova to eliminate Australia’s Alicia Molik and Italy’s Francesca Schiavone, whose combined age is 43, two short of Navratilova, in the women’s doubles.
By a strange coincidence, both of Navratilova’s victories were by 7-6, 7-5 margins and both times her team won the final eight points of the match by breaking to love and holding to love.
“It was eerie,” said Navratilova on the identical scores. “Yesterday, I played really well. Today, I played okay, good enough to win.”
Navratilova ended a six-year retirement in 2000 by competing in four doubles events and increased her workload to 12 tournaments last year, including quarter final showings at Wimbledon and the US Open with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and a runners-up performance with the Spaniard at Amelia Island.
This year, she had played doubles in 12 events going into the Open, teaming up with doubles specialist Natasha Zvereva of Belarus to win the Madrid Open, the 166th doubles crown of Navratilova’s glittering career.
“The expectations are much lower,” Navratilova said. “But I still have high expectations of myself to do well and play well. I feel I’ve been playing well all year.” Known for her tenacity and desire to win in her prime, the American still has the urge to succeed on the court, even at her advanced age.
But as the wily old-timer, Navratilova is also having fun competing against players young enough to be her daughter.
“Players play better than they usually do when they play me,” she said. “They get up for me. Especially now they think they can win, they play better tennis. The next day they can’t get the ball in the court.
“It’s nice to just be out there and doing my very best every single day. That’s all I can do. Take them (wins) however you can get them, and have fun.
“I’m certainly taking a chance putting myself on the line. That’s what life is about.”