Olympics, Fed Cup keep Navratilova motivated for final season
10/28/03 11:07 PM
By DAN GELSTON<
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) _ Martina Navratilova wears loose-fitting shorts while other players wear skirts tighter than their racket strings. Navratilova is not as spry as she used to be and workouts take a greater toll on her body.
``Every day I get up, that`s an accomplishment, sometimes more than you can imagine,`` Navratilova said, smiling.
Maybe she`s feeling her age _ she turned 47 earlier this month _ but Navratilova is playing some of the best tennis of her career. This is no time for Navratilova to slow down, not when the Fed Cup and possibly the Olympics are on the horizon.
``I`m playing a lot better. All the work that I`ve done is paying off now,`` Navratilova said. ``It would be a shame to stop playing when I`m just hitting my peak.``
This season, Navratilova won mixed doubles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon and finished second in women`s doubles at the U.S. Open. She`s looking for another doubles title this week at the Advanta Championships with partner Lisa Raymond.
``I hit some volleys out there that I think are pretty good. Then I look to my left and some of the shots she makes are just unbelievable,`` Raymond said.
Unbelievable enough for her to be added by Billie Jean King to the Fed Cup for the next round against Belgium on Nov. 19-20 in Moscow. The U.S.-Belgium winner faces the winner of the France-Russia semifinal for the Cup on Nov. 22-23.
Navratilova considered the addition an honor, though she used her self-deprecating sense of humor to downplay the news.
``They kept going down the line and they finally came to me,`` she said. ``I`m looking forward to hooking up with Billie Jean again and listen to her ranting and raving.``
While the Fed Cup has her enthusiastic, it`s the possibility of playing in the 2004 Olympics that made her decide to play another season before retiring for good. She retired in 1994, then returned to competition in 2000, playing mostly doubles.
Adding an Olympic medal would be the ultimate end to her career.
``That was what put me over the edge to play next year,`` he said. ``I`ve done it all, obviously.``
Navratilova remains one of the biggest names in tennis with 58 Grand Slam titles: 18 in singles, 31 in doubles, nine in mixed doubles. Injuries forced Serena and Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport out of Advanta and the Fed Cup, leaving Navratilova the top draw.
``She`s going to put people in the stands,`` Raymond said.
Navratilova plans to join those fans on the sidelines after next season, Olympics or not, when she`ll retire and head for her Florida home. She`s thought about entering politics, but hasn`t seriously considered that option.
Playing in a tournament last month in Germany, she joked, ``If Arnold Schwarzenegger can run for governor in California, then who knows? I have the muscles.`` Some fans and friends took that to mean Governor Navratilova was just an election away.
``Next thing I know, I`m running for office the next day,`` she said. ``People are sending me letters saying they`ll support me. I`m not running yet. One day, which means one day in the future, not when I retire from tennis.``
For now, she`s feeling too good to think about quitting.
``I`m close to that peak,`` she said. ``I sort of want to stay there for now.``
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