CHICAGO -- Martina Navratilova became tennis' all-time singles titles leader the hard way yesterday.
Navratilova, the second seed, edged third seed Jana Novotna, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 7-5, in the final of the Virginia Slims of Chicago.
"I was preparing my loser's speech during the match," Navratilova said. "I had to tell myself I could come back. I said, 'If I can't break the record in Chicago, where can I break it?' "
Navratilova won her 158th career singles championship and 12th Chicago Slims crown. She and Chris Evert, who retired in 1989, had been tied at 157. Jimmy Connors is the men's leader at 109.
After a brief rest, Navratilova teamed with Pam Shriver of Lutherville, Md., to beat Zina Garrison and Katrina Adams, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7), for the doubles crown. It was the 63rd time that Navratilova, a Czech native who lives in Aspen, Colo., had won both the singles and doubles title in the same tournament. The winners split $21,000.
Navratilova said she expects her singles record to stand for a long time because the tour is more of a grind now than it was when she started playing.
"Physically and mentally, it's tougher," she said. "You can't just go out and play tennis."
Navratilova said she was thinking about winning the match, not history, against Novotna.
"The moment took over the history part. I was just trying to win the match and I had to start hitting winners," said Navratilova, 35, a dozen years older than her opponent.
It looked as if Novotna, who had 10 aces but 12 double faults, would pull off her second consecutive upset and in similar fashion, having lost the opening set to top seed Steffi Graf before winning Saturday night's semifinal.
"It's a credit to Martina for her comeback and her historic match," Novotna said. "I don't think she felt the pressure of the record so much as the pressure I put on her. I was the one who pushed her to the limit."
Novotna, 0-6 against Navratilova, was ahead 5-4 in the deciding match and forced Navratilova, the No. 2 seed, to match point twice in the 10th game. But Navratilova rallied and Novotna, of Czechoslovakia, double-faulted to lose her service. She questioned the call and slammed her racket into the top of the net.
"There were no bad calls until the last set," said Novotna, saying it was possible the close calls might have gone against her because of the stature of her opponent. "It's possible."
Donnay Indoor Championship
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Boris Becker of Germany rallied from a two-set deficit and outlasted American Jim Courier, 6-7 (5-7), 2-6, nTC 7-6 (12-10), 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, in 4 hours, 54 minutes in a battle between the world's top-ranked player and the former No. 1.
Despite the defeat, Courier retained the top spot, which he achieved last week.
Becker, who had won all three of the pair's previous matches, rallied in the final set from a 4-2 deficit to 4-4 and held two match points in the 10th game. Courier survived only until the 12th game, finally serving a double fault, giving Becker the match.
Federal Express International
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- MaliVai Washington of Swartz Creek, Mich., ranked No. 26 and seeded 14th, beat Wayne Ferreira, 6-3, 6-2, of South Africa, for his first professional singles title. He won $103,000.
Washington, who did not lose a set in his five matches, used strong strokes from the baseline and well-timed net rushes to keep Ferreira, the seventh seed, on the defensive.