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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Superhuman Martina deserves credit

By Sue Barker
BBC presenter and former French Open winner

Martina Navratilova and I are the same age and in a way, I cannot believe she is being this brave by entering the singles at the French Open.

She seems to be risking so much - but I say good luck to her.

I spoke to her last year about playing singles again and she said whatever happens, it would never take away from what she achieved and how she dominated the era when we played.

NAVRATILOVA v DULKO
Martina Navratilova (left) and Gisela Dulko meet in the French Open first round
47------------Age-------------19
American----Nat-----Argentine
18----------Slams-------------0
167-----Career titles--------0
$21.0m---Earnings-----$0.3m
0------Head-to-head--------0
She just enjoys playing, and you can't take that away from people.

If she really wants to do all the training you have to do to play competitively, then we should applaud her.

I don't think she or anyone has any expectations that she's going to do anything spectacular in the tournament, but if she could win a round or two, I'm sure she'd be ecstatic.

People will immediately criticise the depth in women's tennis if a 47-year-old can win a Grand Slam match - but that has always been the case.

People can't name a player outside the top 15 or 20, whereas they can in the men's - and whether Martina wins or not will not make a difference to that.

Plus there are all sorts of factors in playing Navratilova, despite her age.

She's a fantastic athlete, she is super fit and she is a living legend in the game.

In the first round she plays Gisela Dulko, who is only 19 and was not even born when Navratilova won her second French Open title in 1984.

Nerves could play a part and she may not play to the best of her ability.

So I think if Martina can win even one round, it says more about how great she is than the depth of women's tennis.

I am looking forward to seeing her play, and I am also really excited about the return of the Williams sisters at the French Open.

Neither of them have played a Grand Slam tournament since Wimbledon last year, and they have really been missed.

Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne cannot carry the game on their own and the game needs these big rivalries at the top.

So it is good to see Serena coming back to fitness, as well as Jennifer Capriati and Amelie Mauresmo, and if most of them can stay fit, I think we are in for a great tournament.

I am not so sure Henin-Hardenne will be able to defend her title, although usually she would be a strong favourite.

She says she has recovered from a viral infection, but she hasn't had matches.

Amelie Mauresmo is a favourite for the French Open
Mauresmo needs to overcome her French Open nerves
To win the French Open, you have to win seven matches over two weeks on clay and that takes a lot out of you physically.

If she does win it, it would be a miraculous performance.

But personally, I would love to see Amelie Mauresmo win it.

She has won two titles on clay recently, so she's in form, and it would be lovely for the French crowd to see a Frenchwoman win it.

It would also be beneficial for women's tennis because it spreads the Grand Slams around a bit and makes the game a bit more interesting.

If Mauresmo can get over the nerves of playing in front of her home crowd, I really believe she could do it.


Sue Barker will present live coverage of the French Open finals on the weekend of 5/6 June on Grandstand on BBC Two.



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