40 LOVE Moments: 36 Years & 4 Months
Published September 28, 2013 12:00
PARIS, France - Saturday's Toray Pan Pacific Open final between Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova is the biggest all-lefty final on the WTA since Paris [Indoors] in February 1993, over 20 years ago - there have been several all-lefty International finals since then, but none at the Premier-level or above.
But there's another reason the championship match at the Open Gaz de France - as it was known then - was historic. And we're not talking about 20 years of distinction, we're talking all-time distinction.
Monica Seles was a dominant World No.1 at the time, going into the tournament on a 30-match win streak that had brought her six titles, including the 1992 US Open and 1993 Australian Open. It looked like nothing could stop her, and with four comprehensive straight set wins - including a 62 62 win over Mary Pierce and 61 61 over Conchita Martínez - she was in another final, with a 34-match win streak.
Martina Navratilova, the No.2 seed behind Seles, also made it through to the final without dropping a set, but she had lost three straight times to Seles - including just a week earlier over in Chicago.
On top of that, nobody her age had ever beaten a reigning World No.1 in the history of women's tennis.
"At the beginning of the week I thought I had no chance to win," Navratilova said. "I beat Monica last year, then she beat me three times - she beat me last week. You wonder whether you can do it again."
Sometimes you surprise yourself.
Her serve-and-volley game in full flight, Navratilova hung tough with Seles early on, winning the first set and - after dropping the second set - hung tough again, breaking back when Seles served for the match at 5-4 in the third set and pushing the match to a tie-break. The crowd was loving every minute.
From 3-all in the breaker, Navratilova didn't lose another point - she won, 63 46 76(3).
"I made myself believe I could," Navratilova said. "This ranks right up there with just about anything I've done. This is as good a tennis match as I've ever played. To do it at this age is fantastic.
"I will look back at this day with undiluted pleasure."
She was in tears as she left the court.
"I was really overwhelmed after the match."
The previous record belonged to Billie Jean King, who beat - of all people - a No.1-ranked Navratilova in the finals of Houston on March 2, 1980. King was aged 36 years, 3 months and 10 days at the time.
Navratilova's record - 36 years, 4 months and 3 days - still stands to this day.