They’ve never been to River Oaks Country Club, but Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles, who will face off in an exhibition match there April 5, have plenty of good memories of the tennis they have played in Houston.
Navratilova claimed six titles in 10 tries, including four in a row from 1976 through 1979, back when the WTA Tour passed through town every year.
She also won in 1983 and 1985 in the middle of a 61-month stretch that saw her win 71 tournaments, including 12 of 17 Grand Slams.
Seles was a three-time champion of the Virginia Slims of Houston, recording the first of her 53 career championships as an unseeded 15-year-old out of the former Yugoslavia in 1989 when she upset Chris Evert in the final.
She most recently won at Westside Tennis Club in 1992, when she beat local favorite Zina Garrison for the title, dropping only eight games in four tournament matches.
She never has lost in singles here, an unblemished record she’ll put on the line against Navratilova on the Thursday night during the River Oaks International men’s event.
Navratilova, 50, only recently retired from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour doubles circuit and mixed doubles play at the Grand Slams, and Seles, 33, met 17 times between 1989 and 1993, with Seles winning 10, including their 1991 U.S. Open final.
Although Seles never has officially retired, she last played on the Tour in 2003, when she was beaten in the first round at Roland Garros.
In recent years, River Oaks has held a special match during its annual spring tournament. But on the only previous occasion two women were slated to square off — Anna Kournikova vs. Carly Gullickson in 2004 — Kournikova was a no-show, claiming illness.
The Seles-Navratilova Houston match is part of a series of exhibitions they are slated to participate in this year.