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Courting Martina

Martina Navratilova's visit to Hyderabad triggered a wave of excitement among tennis buffs


"QUIET PLEASE! Navratilova to serve." This was the message from the chair umpire during the Wimbledon championships for close to two decades. Such was the phenomenal consistency and success rate of the tennis legend Martina Navratilova at the `Queen of all Grand Slams', the Wimbledon.

And when this great lady from the Czech Republic, who shifted base to United States, confirmed her participation in the Hyderabad WTA Open, the excitement and buzz was just phenomenal. Never in the history of any event have Indians seen anyone of her stature play in India. And Hyderabadis could not have expected a better face than that of Navratilova. Commitment, unrelenting zeal to excel even at the age of 48 and more importantly, the youthful exuberance to produce something special and continue to enthral fans with her flamboyant style.

Significantly, Indians have a nostalgic connection with Navratilova for she was a regular partner to their own hero, Leander Paes, in their triumphant campaign at Wimbledon some time back. Paes is another one of those select few from the sub-continent always credited for producing something extraordinary by the mere sight of the tricolour. "It is a great experience to play with someone like Navratilova," was Paes' reaction then.

Apparently, no one will be really bothered whether Martina will be here to win or lose. On their part, the WTA organisers could not have hoped for a better tennis personality than Navratilova to grace the third edition. A crowd puller by the sheer weight of her impeccable track record, spanning over four decades, her presence is bound to be the talk of the town for a long time to come.

Not surprisingly, tennis champ Sania Mirza too is elated at the news. "Well, she is part of tennis folklore. And when you play or even share thoughts with her, it has to be something special. I am eagerly looking forward to off the court encounters too," she says. On the prospects of partnering Navratilova in the WTA doubles, Sania remarked: "If it happens, nothing like it. It will be another special moment in my life in pursuit of excellence. You don't see players of her calibre even talk to Indian girls. So, if you get a chance to play with her or against, it is bound to be an unforgettable learning experience."

What else can sum up her magnificent comeback to international circuit than this comment by the legend herself: "I have been in the twilight of my career longer than most people have had careers."

V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

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