WIMBLEDON '87 : Once Again, Grass Is Greener for Navratilova : She Wins First-Round Match on Centre Court in Only 31 Minutes, 6-1, 6-0

Times Staff Writer

Martina Navratilova, her spirits and game revived by the healing blades of the grass of Wimbledon, came out smoking Wednesday.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion, who hasn't won a tournament in 1987, opened her title defense with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Claudia Porwik in a match that appeared to take place at fast-forward speed.

Navratilova polished off Porwik in 31 minutes, one minute longer than it takes Bill Cosby to clear up a major domestic crisis.

Martina was the big news on a Wimbledon day that was upsetting to upset fans. Steffi Graf, Chris Evert, Mats Wilander and Jimmy Connors also opened with routine victories.

But most of the attention was focused on Navratilova. At 30, winless in her last six tournaments and making wholesale changes in her equipment and entourage, Navratilova had been struggling, if not panicking.

But all aspects of her awesome game were working well Wednesday on Centre Court. She was guilty of zero unforced errors, and at one point she returned four straight serves for winners.

"I returned really well, and she didn't have that much pace on her serve to give me trouble," Navratilova said. "I don't think I've ever done that before--hit four straight winners on service returns."

Porwik, who held the first time she served, would not get another game and would win just 13 points in the last 11 games. Navratilova also ran off the final 12 points of the match.

"I have the confidence to win," Navratilova said. "And the confidence grows during the tournament. I know the game is there."

She was, however, coming off a loss to Helena Sukova in a warm-up tournament at Eastbourne, England.

"I was shellshocked," Navratilova said of that defeat. "I was struggling mentally, and I knew it. I was feeling very unlucky. But the rain delay, believe it or not, allowed me for the first time to watch my (Eastbourne) matches (on tape). (Sukova) played unbelievably. She didn't miss one shot.

"And that made me feel better. After seeing the tape, I realized that there's nothing wrong with my game. As usually happens, people play their best tennis against me."

Referring to her recent birthday, Navratilova said, "Maybe 30 is the magic number. I've always wondered, how will I know (when her career is sliding)? Then I realized the only way (to know) for sure is when I start losing. Maybe it's a matter of pretending I'm not 30.

"I felt threatened by the young kids. I worried maybe they were better than I am. But what the hell, I'll have to go down swinging, it's the only way I know."

Second-seeded Graf, displaying her effective new serve, ran her winning streak to 40 matches by dispatching Adriana Villagran in 42 minutes, 6-0, 6-2.

"I felt very good. I enjoyed every second of it," Graf said. "I played well in practice. But today I was even better." She won 16 of the last 17 points.

Evert also needed just 42 minutes to defeat her opponent, Sara Gomer, 6-1, 6-0, while Wilander, winning 10 of 11 games in one stretch, defeated Gary Muller, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, in 1 hour 22 minutes.

Connors beat Marty Davis, 6-1, 7-6, 7-6, and said he feels no pressure to play up to his once-unbeatable level of play.

"I'm not playing under pressure now," Connors said. "That's ridiculous. I'm going out, slipping around a little bit, having a good time."

Meanwhile, Sukova defeated Jo Louis, 6-1, 6-4, in 45 minutes, and Pam Shriver routed Natalia Medvedeva, 6-2, 6-1, in 41 minutes.

In men's play, Miloslav Mecir, Yannick Noah and Tim Mayotte also advanced. Mecir defeated Mike DePalmer, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5; Noah eliminated Brad Drewett, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, and Mayotte beat Jean Fleurian, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World