Electrics, 1-3, could use a jolt from Navratilova


Gazette Sportswriter

SCHENECTADY - Martina Navratilova returns to Central Park tonight at 7, perhaps just in the nick of time to save the season for the Schenectady County Electrics.

The Electrics, now 1-3 and 2 games behind unbeaten Hartford in the WTT's Eastern Conference, host the FoxForce tonight, with Navratilova replacing Australian Nicole Pratt as one of the two women in the lineup.

Schenectady, which won its opener last Monday night, is coming off three straight defeats, including a 24-13 setback late Saturday night in California against the two-time defending champion Sacramento Capitals.

Last year, when Navratilova joined the Electrics' lineup, she hadn't been playing much tennis. This summer, that isn't the case.

"I love World TeamTennis, and hopefully, I can contribute to the team," Navratilova said last Thursday, two days before she was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. "Last summer, it occurred to me that I could have played Wimbledon. So that's why I played this year, and I knew it would get me ready for team tennis. Hopefully, I can play some pretty good tennis this summer."

The Electrics are going to need it. A loss tonight to the Hartford FoxForce and Schenectady's chance at a postseason berth will be slim: The two conference winners meet in the WTT championship Aug. 26 at the USTA National Tennis Center.

Navratilova, who will also play for the Electrics in Tuesday's match in Wilmington, Del., against the Smash, is expecting to play only doubles. But she says she'll be ready to play singles if the team needs her.

I'm not planning on it, but we'll have to see how the team is doing," said Navratilova, who teamed up with Mariaan de Swardt to reach the quarterfinals in women's doubles at Wimbledon before losing to Venus and Serena Williams, the eventual champions.

"I could chip in. I've played a few singles sets, so I wouldn't be completely at a loss if I had to play."

Navratilova, 43, revolutionized women's tennis in 1982 by adding conditioning and nutritional elements to her game. She doesn't lift weights as often as she used to, but she still maintains a strict diet.

"I didn't really get organized as far as diet and exercise go until 1981," said Navratilova. "When I got serious and started paying attention to those things, it made a big difference. I still lift weights at least once a week, and my diet is still a very healthy one.

"I like eating good food," continued Navratilova, who said she also spends a lot more time stretching than she used to. "I don't eat junk. I don't like the way it makes me feel. I still have my dessert, but I only have two bites. That's it."

Hartford's 3-0 record has been helped by the play of Monica Seles, who has a 10-3 won-loss record in women's singles in two matches this season. Seles, however, won't be playing tonight in Central Park, and her spot will be taken by either Leizel Horn or Bethanie Mattek.

James Blake, a former NCAA All-American at Harvard, plays men's singles for the FoxForce and has an 11-12 record. In 1999, Blake was the first African-American since Arthur Ashe (1965), and the first Harvard player since 1916, to reach the NCAA finals.

Playing men's doubles with Blake on the FoxForce will be Murphy Jensen, who is playing WTT for another season but not with his older brother Luke, who is playing with St. Louis. The Jensen brothers, who have played numerous times in Schenectady, won the 1994 French Open doubles title.

Playing for the Electrics, along with Navratilova, will be Nannie DeVilliers, Michael Hill and Brent Haygarth.

Schenectady's men's doubles tandem of Hill and Haygarth have been the team's most consistent performers so far this season. They have a 20-14 record, second best in the league.

Tickets for tonight's matches are $25 (reserved) and $18 (unreserved).
Saturday's resultSacramento 24, Schenectady 13 Women's doubles: Elena Likhovtseva-Brie Rippner (Sac) def. Nicole Pratt-Nannie DeVilliers, 5-1; women's singles: Likhovtseva (Sac) def. Pratt, 5-3; Men's doubles: Brent Haygarth-Michael Hill (Sch) def. Brian MacPhie-Richey Reneberg, 5-4 (5-4); men's singles: MacPhie (Sac) def. Hill, 5-1; mixed doubles: Rippner-Reneberg (Sac) def. DeVilliers-Haygarth, 5-3.
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