Navratilova to face Tatiana in singles comeback match

Monday, June 17th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EASTBOURNE, England (AP) _ Martina Navratilova will face Russia's Tatiana Panova at the Eastbourne grass court championships next week in her first singles match since 1994.

The 45-year old American, winner of 167 singles and 166 doubles titles, asked for a wild card into the event where she was an 11-time champion, and it was granted when organizers failed to attract Jennifer Capriati or Monica Seles.

``I think I've played better this year than last year, and I played better last year than the year before. I don't feel that I've reached my peak,'' Navratilova said recently.

Navratilova, who came out of retirement in 2000 to play doubles, has always insisted she had no interest in playing singles as it would take too much effort to get in shape.

However, she will have been encouraged by winning the doubles title with Natasha Zvereva at the Madrid Open last month.

The victory, her first in 7 1/2 years, marked her as the oldest woman ever to win a WTA event.

Should she win her opening match at Eastbourne, she would then face third-seeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, who has a first-round bye.

The field at the pre-Wimbledon warm-up is topped by Yugoslavia's Jelena Dokic, who will play a qualifier or Czech Daja Bedanova in the second round.

Second-seeded Sandrine Testud will play either fellow Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy or 2000 semifinalist Anne Kremer of Luxembourg. Sylvia Farina Elia is seeded four, and she will play fellow Italian Francesca Schiavone or struggling South African Amanda Coetzer.

Russian Anna Kournikova, still seeking her first career title, will play Italy's Rita Grande for the right to meet fifth-seeded American Meghann Shaughnessy.