The lone empty space on Martina Navratilova’s lengthy tennis resume was the Australian Open mixed doubles title.
At 46 years and three months, Navratilova filled that last gap. She and Leander Paes of India defeated Todd Woodbridge of Australia and Eleni Daniilidou of Greece, 6-4, 7-5, today in the Australian Open mixed doubles final. She became the oldest Grand Slam champion, taking the honor from Norman Brookes, who won the Australian Open men’s doubles title in 1924 at 46 years, two months.
“I think people put too much on age,” Navratilova said. “I certainly didn’t think I would still be playing at this age. When I was growing up I wanted to be the youngest to win something, not the oldest.... It’s pretty bloody good, isn’t it?”
How’s this for perspective? Navratilova won her first mixed doubles title in 1973 at the French Open with Chilean Ivan Molina. Paes was born in 1973.
He and Navratilova did not drop a set at the Australian Open, beating defending champions Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Kevin Ullyett of Zimbabwe in the semifinals. Their partnership was formed at the U.S. Open last year when Paes had a chance meeting with Navratilova on his way to the referee’s office, searching for a doubles teammate.
This was Navratilova’s 57th Grand Slam title. She has 18 singles, 31 doubles and eight mixed.
-- Lisa Dillman