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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 19:41 GMT 20:41 UK
Tennis star given freedom of town
Martina Navratilova's Freedom of Eastbourne plaque
Martina Navratilova once owned a house in Eastbourne
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has been awarded the honorary freedom of Eastbourne in East Sussex.

Navratilova, who won 11 singles titles at the women's tennis tournament in the town, received the honour on Wednesday during a stopover at Heathrow Airport.

She was presented with the Freedom scroll by the mayor of Eastbourne, Councillor Graham Marsden.

She said she was humbled because Eastbourne had always given her "a sense of belonging".

"I am deeply moved by such genuine kindness... and now I truly feel I am a part of such a noble community," she said.

"The appreciation is mutual. I appreciate Eastbourne, Eastbourne appreciates me and it's nice when it's symbiotic like that, it kind of makes you feel good."

Martina Navratilova and Councillor Graham Marsden
The Freedom award is the highest civic honour bestowed by the council

Navratilova had only good words about the town's ladies' tournament, which is seen as the main warm-up competition the week before Wimbledon starts.

"The players just walk around there, you can walk around the courts, people can watch you practice and it's all right there, it's not so spread out.

"The players can interact with the fans and the kids and that's what it should be."

Mr Marsden said of the tennis star's playing days there: "She was certainly very open and friendly and at the end of the tournament you would actually see her, when she'd won and been given a bouquet, she would go over to a lady who was there and hand it over as a present."

Freedom of Eastbourne for Martina
09 Dec 04 |  Southern Counties

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