Originally created 06/12/04

Navratilova gets wild card, will play singles after 10-year absence



WIMBLEDON, England -- Martina Navratilova will play singles at Wimbledon for the first time in a decade.

The nine-time Wimbledon singles champion was awarded a wild card Friday, signaling her return 10 years after she lost to Conchita Martinez in the 1994 final - and 31 years after she made her debut at the All England Club.

The 47-year-old Navratilova also played singles at the French Open last month, losing a first-round match to Gisela Dulko 6-1, 6-3, leaving her with an 0-3 singles record this year.

Navratilova reached the semifinals of the women's doubles at Roland Garros with partner Lisa Raymond. Last year, she won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title with Leander Paes, making her the oldest champion in the tournament's history.

Navratilova made her Wimbledon debut in 1973, losing in the third round. She captured her first title there in 1978 and won it again in 1979, but failed to make it past the semifinals the following two years.

She then won the event six years in a row between 1982-87, and took her last Wimbledon title in 1990, breaking the record of eight All England Club singles championships set by Helen Wills Moody in 1938. She didn't make the final again until 1994, and retired that year before coming back as a doubles player in 2000.

Navratilova, who has a total of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, had previously said she would likely play in at least one grass-court singles event this month, but didn't say whether she would try to play at Wimbledon.

She also has 31 Grand Slam titles in doubles and nine in mixed doubles. She has said that this season will be her last of competitive tennis.

Other wild cards announced Friday went to British players Emily Webley-Smith and Katie O'Brien.

In the men's competition, Britons Arvind Parmar, Mark Hilton and Richard Bloomfield received wild cards. One more wild card has yet to be announced for the men's draw.

Wimbledon begins June 21 and ends July 4.