Mixed feelings for Navratilova WIMBLEDON


WIMBLEDON, England -- The more Martina Navratilova keeps talking about her love of tennis, the more she is beginning to sound like Sugar Ray Leonard on the verge of a comeback.

Yesterday, Navratilova, 38, claimed her 19th Wimbledon title by combining with Jonathan Stark to win the mixed doubles final over Gigi Fernandez and Cyril Suk, 6-4, 6-4.

Then, in her post-match interview, she talked about how she rediscovered that it was her loose racket strings, not her age, that had her serving so badly at the end of her singles career. And she talked about how much fun it was to compete again. And how it was really going to be exciting meeting Monica Seles in their July 29 exhibition at Atlantic City, N.J.

And then, she said that her old coach, Mike Estep, had fixed her serve, giving her extra time to move on the court.

"Mike is telling me I should play singles next year," Navratilova said. "I don't think I have the nerve for it anymore. It's just too nerve-racking. I can't even think about it. But you know, when the time comes, if I'm fit, I don't know.

"I'm not ruling it out, but I doubt it."

It was the second time in the past two weeks that Navratilova has gone on one of those will-she-or-won't-she monologues. But throw out the classic women's final won by Steffi Graf over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, and it seems obvious that Navratilova could come back and reach the semifinals of nearly every major tournament she put her mind to.

For now, though, she is slogging through the mess that is the Seles ranking controversy. As president of the Women's Tennis Association, Navratilova has tried to cobble together a compromise to get Seles into tournaments with a No. 1 ranking.

But the current top 10 players rejected a compromise that would have given Seles a No. 1 ranking in six tournaments.

"I don't know what the next step is," Navratilova said. "I don't know what Monica wants to do, and it has been very frustrating, because I thought the players were in understanding what the deal was.

"The players benefited most from Monica's absence, because they won more money, they won more Grand Slams," she said. "And they're not willing to give back to her perhaps what they gained by her absence."

Will the Seles ranking issue be resolved?

"It will be resolved one way or the other," Navratilova said. "Monica may say, 'Forget it, I'm going to go in as a wild card, and let's see where I come out of the hat.' She may get fed."

Navratilova basically added that the free ride for the other women was over. She said that Seles was a threat to win every tournament, including this year's U.S. Open.

"She was No. 1," Navratilova said. "She's 22 years old. The talent doesn't go anywhere. Look at me, I'm 38, I'm still going there. Twenty-two, no big deal. Two years away from the game, it's no big deal. She'll get right back into it."

But will Navratilova?

Stay tuned.

* Fernandez also lost in another doubles final yesterday. She and Natasha Zvereva, top seeds in the women's draw, fell to second-seeded Jana Novotna and Sanchez Vicario, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.

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