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Aussie Won’t Follow Martina’s Footsteps : Navratilova Advances With a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 Victory Over Radford

Times Staff Writer

For years, people have been wondering who is going to fill Martina Navratilova’s shoes. The answer was quite simple, really.

Just find a 19-year-old Australian ranked 176th in the world and put her in a pair of Martina’s size 8 1/2 men’s shoes, then see what happens.

Kristine Radford, playing in a pair of shoes given to her by Navratilova, had the No. 2 player in the world quaking in her shoes for a while Friday in their second-round Wimbledon match.

In a match laced with excitement, and carried over from Thursday, Navratilova finally stepped past Radford and into the third round with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, victory. Navratilova viewed her close call with a great sense of relief.

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“Short of being down match point, I think that’s the only way it could have been tougher,” she said.

When darkness fell Thursday night, the match was tied at one set apiece and Navratilova had been forced to come back from 1-3 in the second.

Two weeks ago in Birmingham, Navratilova played Radford and won in straight sets. At the time, Navratilova noticed that Radford’s shoes were pretty well beat up, so after the match, she gave the Sydney teen three pairs of her own slightly-used high-tops.

Navratilova said she is now second-guessing her generosity.

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“I want to take them back,” she said.

Radford, wearing the hand-me-downs, worked her way through three qualifying rounds and won a first-round match against Andrea Temesvari of Hungary before finally catching up to her sole mate.

Navratilova soon discovered that Radford possesses legitimate grass-court weapons--a deep serve and a slicing, backhand return. Before play was halted Thursday, Radford sensed that she could win when she led, 3-1.

But then Radford began thinking, which is usually dangerous in such circumstances.

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“I was just thinking, you know, playing Martina, I was thinking, ‘I can win, and she’s ranked No. 2 in the world,’ ” Radford said. “Everything was just going round and round in my head instead of getting on with the match.”

From then on, Navratilova won five straight games, taking the set and squaring the match. After it was postponed until Friday, she went back to her cottage to count her good fortune.

“I was just thinking I was lucky to be at one set all,” Navratilova said.

That made Friday’s match a one-set, winner-take-all proposition. Navratilova wasted three break points in the first game, but Radford held on.

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Then, with Radford serving at 3-3, Navratilova saw an opening.

“She finally cracked,” Navratilova said.

Two double faults hurt Radford, almost as much as Navratilova’s searing forehand passing shot down the line on break point.

It was fairly routine from then on. Navratilova served an ace for 5-3, then broke Radford again to win, stroking a backhand service return winner on the first match point.

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Navratilova meets another Australian, Nicole Provis, in the third round, but she isn’t sure it can be any more difficult than what she went through against Radford.

“There was no margin for error,” Navratilova said. “One bad game, you lose a match. But it was the same for both of us. Obviously, the pressure was more on me because I was expected to win.

“At the same time, I knew I could win,” Navratilova said. “I wasn’t sure if she thought she could win. I don’t think she thought she could, but I know I should.”

Said Radford: “I’m not disappointed at all.”

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Top-seeded Steffi Graf of West Germany did not experience the same trouble as Navratilova. Graf breezed into the fourth round, where she will again meet 15-year-old Monica Seles, with a 6-1, 6-3, victory over Anne Minter of Australia.

Seles, who lost on clay to Graf in the French Open semifinals, defeated 17-year-old Eva Sviglerova of Czechoslovakia, 6-4, 6-3. Sviglerova played in the French Open juniors, where she lost to 13-year-old Jennifer Capriati of Lauderhill, Fla.

Graf is looking forward to her rematch with Seles.

“It’ll be different (on grass),” Graf said. “I have seen that she is not too bad on grass. It won’t be easy, but I think it’ll be all right.”

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Arantxa Sanchez Vicario got a scare from Rafaella Reggi, but the French Open champion came back from 3-5 in the third set, fought off two match points and won, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.


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