Farewell Martina

THUNDER, lightning and violent storms over London at 6am today. It’s stopped for the moment – but the forecast for play in SW19 this afternoon is not good.
A severe weather warning is the last thing those queueing to get in want to hear with four men’s quarter finals due on court.
By 8am there were just 700 people in the queue – with 500 tickets available on each of Centre and No 1 courts. So, surprisingly, you could have had a lie in and arrived late to claim a ticket for Stepanek v Bjorkman and Nieminen v Nadal on No 1.
On this, the last day show court tickets are available to the queue, there were also 500 tickets on offer for No 2 court. Weather allowing – and it may not – it’s due to host a ladies’ doubles match and later a mixed doubles tie, both involving a certain Martina Navratilova. The nine times Wimbledon singles champion is still on track for a record 21st title here.
As shadows engulfed the courts last night, Martina, who turns 50 in October, walked into the press interview room and confirmed this will be her very last Wimbledon.

“It’s time to move on with life,” she smiled, “spend more time with my one and only, my animals, devote more time to my businesses – and do some commentating, if somebody wants to listen to what I have to say. But most of all, it’s time to spend more time at home.”
Martina and SW19 go back a long way. She won her first singles title here in 1978, five years after making her Wimbledon debut. Asked if she was feeling sentimental on court, knowing the final curtain was near, she replied: “You know, I came here to win, win a title, and we’re still in both events. We have a very good shot in both the doubles and the mixed. So I’m just concentrating on that. I can get sentimental when it’s over. Not yet.
“I have a job to do, which is to play well – I didn’t come here for the strawberries and cream. The decision that this is my last year, that is a definite.
“What will I miss? I won’t miss it – I’ll be here. I’ll be back, I just won’t be playing. I think I’ll miss the competition, the having to perform under pressure – and hitting shots that maybe I never hit before. I probably could do it another five years if I wanted to, but I don’t want to.”

In 1994, with Princess Diana looking on from the royal box, Czech-born American Martina plucked a blade of grass from Centre Court and slipped it in her pocket after losing a three set final to Conchita Martinez, in what was Navratilova’s last campaign in the Wimbledon ladies’ singles.
She’s since delighted the crowds by coming back to play in the doubles, providing entertainment and memories in equal measure. But the tennis legend joked last night about qualifying to join the AARP – the American Association of Retired People – on her next birthday, and said that was as good a sign as any that the time was right to leave the stage.
What has she learned in the last 12 years since that day in 1994? “I think most of all I’ve just learned to be a better listener and appreciate every moment, and appreciate everything that I’ve done and everything that I’m still doing.
“Totally humbled by life. Humbled by Wimbledon.”

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