Monica Seles was testing her left foot for the first time since recovering from a broken bone that sidelined her for 10 months.
Martina Navratilova was tuning up her game to play doubles in the Nasdaq 100 later this week in Key Biscayne, Fla.
The two former stars used an exhibition last night to see where they stand, and, in the process, thoroughly entertained a crowd of around 2,700 at the Siegel Center.
“I felt really good moving out there,” said Seles, after losing to Navratilova 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) in a match that produced some vintage shots by both players on the artificial surface laid over the Virginia Commonwealth basketball court.
“Just to be able to play points was a lot of fun. I had a great time. It’s going to be a slow [process] for me to get back. I’m just excited that my foot held up.”
Navratilova, who retired in 1994 but returned in 2000 to play doubles and has won a pair of mixed Grand Slam titles since then, was impressed with Seles’ play.
“It’s funny,” Navratilova said. “We’ve played each other a few times now in the past three years and the times before, I was the one who was rusty because I was playing doubles and Monica was on the tour. I was expecting her to be rustier than she was.
“She played really well. I’m playing a lot better than I did the last time we played over a year ago. She was moving pretty well. I think her biggest thing is getting her serve going. That’s what took me so long. It took me years to get my arm going again.
“Otherwise, her ground strokes are amazing. Her passing shots. A couple of returns I was just watching, being a spectator.”
Navratilova, 47, is planning to play doubles with Lisa Raymond in Florida, then mixed with Leander Paes at the French Open in May.
“I’m planning to play singles in Eastbourne [England],” Navratilova said. “People are pushing me to play [singles] at Wimbledon, but that would be too much attention. I’m really trying to play singles to improve my doubles. Most people play doubles to help their singles, but I do it the other way.”
Navratilova said this will be her final year on the tour, then she’d like to get involved in some way politically on the women’s circuit, as well as continue to be a TV commentator.
“I’m going for the Olympics [in Athens, Greece],” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll get in. Also try to get another Grand Slam title. And I love doing TV.”
Seles, 30, hopes to return to the tour later this spring, possibly for the French Open.
“I’ve got to take it very slowly,” said Seles, who wasn’t grunting nearly as loudly as she used to on her shots. “I’ve got to take baby steps. I have a tendency to go right into it, but I learned my lesson. I’ve got to be careful with this injury.”
VCU is planning another exhibition later this year that could feature some bigger names in the women’s game, but nothing has been finalized.
In a mixed doubles pro-set match that preceded the main event, Seles and local pro Carl Clark defeated Navratilova and Sean Steinour, another local pro, 8-5.
A pair of charitable organizations, Advantage Virginia and the McCormack Foundation, each received $10,000 from the affair, which included a silent auction Sunday night.
Advantage Virginia was created in 2000 by the VCU Foundation to develop a youth tennis academy and build a world-class indoor facility in Richmond that would benefit VCU and the area. The McCormack Foundation makes contributions to educational, sports and service charities.