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Navratilova still a crowd favorite at U.S. Open

Eds: Will be UPDATED.

india Updated: Sep 08, 2006 12:12 IST

Eds: Will be UPDATED.

By SANDRA HARWITT

For The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) _ Martina Navratilova insists this is her final tournament as a pro, and the crowd at the U.S. Open is determined to give her a proper send-off.

Navratilova drew cheers on Thursday every time she and Nadia Petrova won a point in their doubles quarterfinal, which they wound up losing to the top-seeded and defending champion Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur 7-6 (1), 6-3.

"We're still learning about each other, but it's a little late now," Navratilova said.

Navratilova still had at least one match left at Flushing Meadows. She teamed with Bob Bryan late Thursday to play Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Frantisek Cermak in the mixed doubles quarterfinals. Navratilova, who turns 50 next month, retired from the game in 1994 but returned in 2000 to play doubles, occasionally dabbling in singles, too.

"You're only as old as you feel, and I certainly don't feel 49," Navratilova told the crowd after losing the women's doubles match. "I just wanted to inspire people."

It was easy to tell that the crowd was pulling for Navratilova and Russia's Petrova, who were down 5-2 in the first set and came back to force a tiebreaker.

Noticeably quiet when either the American-Australian duo of Raymond or Stosur won a point, the fans made plenty of noise when Navratilova earned one. Raymond used to play on Navratilova's side in doubles.

"It was a tough occasion. I've played against Martina and with her, and it was a tough match knowing it was her last U.S. Open," Raymond said.

___

ON THE MOVE: Dutchwoman Esther Vergeer, the dominant force in women's wheelchair tennis, is back at the U.S. Open to defend her title.

The 25-year-old Vergeer has not lost a singles match since February 2003, when she was beaten by Daniela Ditoro of Australia. Vergeer hasn't dropped a set since Ditoro took one at the Wheelchair Classic 8s at the 2004 Australian Open.

The Dutchwoman has been ranked No. 1 since April 1999. Vergeer holds a 43-0 record in singles and 28-2 mark in doubles this year.

___

REMEMBER US?: Jim Courier is enjoying his time as a television commentator at the U.S. Open, especially because it gives him a chance to visit with old friends on the practice courts. Courier has been out there with Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Todd Martin and others.

"It's nice to see a little bit of the heritage of the game," Courier said.

A four-time major champion who also was ranked No. 1, Courier is the co-founder of the Champion Series senior tour. Wayne Ferreira of South Africa, who played a record 56 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments, and Jimmy Arias of the United States have been added for autumn events as the tour wraps up with stops in Charlotte, Memphis and Houston.