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Navratilova tries to bow out a winner


WIMBLEDON, England -- Martina Navratilova will walk on to Centre Court at Wimbledon today for the last time as a singles competitor.

She will bow to the Duke and Duchess of Kent, pick a chair beside the umpire and take a few warm-up swings.

Then she'll look across the net at Conchita Martinez, the No. 3 player in the world. Martinez, 22, is playing marvelous tennis and is inspired by the words of her king, Juan Carlos I, who has asked all of Spain to support her.

Navratilova, 37, will take a deep breath and then take her best shot at winning her 10th Wimbledon women's singles title.

"I'm going to enjoy every moment," Navratilova said. "I don't know if this is the sweetest moment of my career, but it's certainly a great moment.

"I've felt like I've been on a stage this Wimbledon. The fans have been fantastic here and I just hope I can complete the final act."

She has had her way through most of this fortnight. Seeded No. 4 in the bottom half of the draw, she never even had to think about Steffi Graf, upset by Lori McNeil, or No. 2 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who lost to No. 13 Zina Garrison-Jackson, or even Garrison-Jackson, who was knocked off by Navratilova's good friend Gigi Fernandez.

Fernandez gave Navratilova a tough match in the semifinals, but never really seemed a true threat. And after the 6-4, 6-4 loss, Fernandez was delighted.

"In the locker room, there are two attitudes," said Fernandez. "There is the one where people say 'Wouldn't it be great if she won a 10th title in her final year,' and then there is the one that goes, 'Enough, already, let someone new win it.'

"But my money has been on Martina from the beginning -- except, of course, we're not allowed to actually bet money."

But a lot of people have been betting, and the odds on Navratilova, who is making her 17th appearance in a Wimbledon final, beating Martinez, who is making her first, were getting closer as the match drew near.

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