Paes, Martina continue to rock and roll
Martina Navratilova and Leander Paes turned the clock back -- quite literally -- as they battled to a 5-7, 7-6, 6-4 win against second seeds Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond in the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles at The Championships on Friday night.
With Tim Henman gone and the mourning over, fans on Henman Hill watched this match on the giant screen with enormous interest. Come on, this was a match between the fifth seeded Indo-American pair whose combined age is 76.
Should they be even getting close to winning a set against Mike, the new kid on the block and Lisa, who still plays top level singles? The truth is Leander and Martina are so serious about their matches, it shows on their faces.
Leander was coming in after a semi-final loss in men's doubles, but Martina was there to make sure they kept firing away like true pros. The grand old lady has seen so many moments like this and is now on the verge of making history at The Championships. If she does win the mixed doubles title she will equal Billie Jean King's record of 20 assorted Wimbledon titles.
This was Martina's 300th match at Wimbledon on Friday, having played first in 1976. Twenty seven years hence, left-handed Martina's competitive instincts are still intact. She can't serve rockets, but she makes sure she does not throw double faults.
Her opponents try to attack her, but there's gifted Leander at the net, ready to do all the jumping around. At the end of the day, Leander had finished playing 80 games on Friday, inclusive of men's doubles partnering David Rikl. It just went to show that Leander and Martina raise their level as the competition gets tougher.
For Leander, this was another match where he was playing an ex-partner. He had won the mixed doubles at the same venue with Lisa in 1999. There was a lot of glaring going on between Leander and Lisa, who was attempting to hit the volleys into Leander's body. But the Kolkatan is still quick and showed his eye-hand co-ordination can do wonders even now.
With Todd Woodbridge involved in men's doubles as well as mixed doubles, Leander and Martina may play late on Saturday. "If not, we are ready for even two matches on Sunday," said Leander.
Meanwhile, in girls' doubles, Sania Mirza and Alisa Kleybanova defeated Emma Laine and Nadja Pavic 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.