LONDON (Reuters) – Eighteen-times Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova is stepping back on to the singles court this weekend to tackle the woman who took over her mantle.
Navratilova, who retired from tennis in 1994 after 22 years at the top of the game, has agreed to face fellow naturalized American Monica Seles on Saturday night, and cannot wait for the challenge.
“I’m very excited to be playing tennis with Monica Seles. Playing against top players is something I really love to do,” she told Reuters from her base in the U.S..
The last time Monica and I played was for her comeback, so maybe this match signals my comeback,'' the 45-year-old added before laughing:No…Just kidding.”
Seles, currently ranked 10th in the world, had been scheduled to play Lindsay Davenport in an exhibition match but the world number one withdrew because of injury.
Navratilova, who returned to the Tour in 2000 to play selected doubles events, stepped in to set up the nostalgic clash.
The pair will face off in a Connecticut casino, where all the money will be on current world number 10 Seles beating her 45-year-old opponent.
Seles came on to the scene in 1989, the year Navratilova reached the final at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open .
With 17 Grand Slam titles under her belt, Navratilova’s best years were already behind her, although she did win Wimbledon the following year in 1990.
But that was the breakthrough year for Seles. Between 1990 and 1993 the Yugoslav-born youngster won eight of the 11 Grand Slam tournaments she entered.
Navratilova won the first three matches she played against Seles, but the tide soon turned and by the time the Czech-born American hung up her racket she trailed Seles 10-7 in head-to-head matches played.
Navratilova won a record 167 singles titles during her career, more than any other tennis player.
Her haul of Grand Slam singles titles includes a record nine at Wimbledon.
Between Wimbledon in 1983 and the 1984 U.S. Open, Navratilova made a clean sweep of six straight Grand Slam titles, tying Margaret Court’s record from 1969-1971.
Seles is still playing on the WTA tour and at one stage her career record might have equaled Navratilova’s.
Her first five years brought home eight Grand Slams, but the run was stopped abruptly when she was stabbed on a Hamburg court in 1993 by a deranged fan of Steffi Graf .
Since then she has won the 1996 Australian Open , but the form that swept all before her in the early 1990s has become a memory.
“We are extremely fortunate to have Martina with us, arguably the best women’s tennis player ever,” said Paul Munick of the Mohegan Sun casino which is hosting the match.