Navratilova handed 6-1, 6-3 French Open exit

25th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 25 (AFP) - Martina Navratilova's dreams of a fairytale winning return to the French Open at the age of 47 came to a heartbreakingly predictable end on Tuesday when she was beaten 6-1, 6-3 in the first round by 19-year-old Argentinian Gisela Dulko.

PARIS, May 25 (AFP) - Martina Navratilova's dreams of a fairytale winning return to the French Open at the age of 47 came to a heartbreakingly predictable end on Tuesday when she was beaten 6-1, 6-3 in the first round by 19-year-old Argentinian Gisela Dulko.

The American, who won the last of her two Roland Garros titles back in 1984, was handed a controversial wild-card into the event ten years after her last appearance on the famous clay courts.

But the ravages of time, where she was conceding a 28-year age difference, combined with the power-game of a 19-year-old opponent who wasn't even born when Navratilova won her last French Open title in 1984, were insurmountable barriers.

Despite the emotional support of a packed Court One crowd, Navratilova struggled from the outset and her stylish serve-and-volley game, which has served her so well over four decades was rendered almost obselete by the teenager's baseline power.

Navratilova, the holder of 167 singles titles, including 18 Grand Slams, had already played and lost two singles matches this year at Amelia Island and Charleston and her invitation to play here had been criticised by some professionals believing it to be a backward step.

Their doubts proved to be well-founded.

Navratilova, who had to delay the start of the match after being ordered to take a pair of scissors to an illegal sponsor's badge on her baseball cap, lost her opening game.

She was to lose her serve again on two more occasions as Dulko, a modest 64 in the world, won the first set in 25 minutes.

Navratilova broke to lead 3-2 in the second set, but Dulko hit straight back to 3-3 and then hammered home her advantage to lead 5-3 and clinched the match with a serve that the American scrambled to reach after 62 minutes on court.

Before her mini-comeback this year, Navratilova had also returned to singles action in 2002, after an eight-year absence, at the Eastbourne grasscourt tournament even managing to beat world 22 Tatiana Panova before losing to Daniela Hantuchova.

Despite her defeat, she will be back later in the week playing women's doubles with American partner Lisa Raymond looking to win a 175th doubles title.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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