Louisa Wall: A real show from the titans of tennis

Let's hear it for the girls. Hasn't the tennis been fabulous the past few weeks.

A bouquet to Marina Erakovic, who with partner Victoria Azarenka, won the junior doubles at the Australian Open last weekend.

And this week she had an opportunity to slog the afternoon away on the court with Monica Seles, who was in Auckland to play the first of two exhibition matches against one of my childhood heroes, Martina Navratilova.

I loved watching with my father in the middle of the night, lefty Martina battle it out with Chris Evert in the 80s. And so with these memories, I was one of the fortunate few to watch their match at the ASB tennis centre. And we were not disappointed with Navratilova, victorious and displaying as much talent off the court as on with her serve and volley game played to perfection.

And on a rainy day in Czechoslovakia, a bored 10-year old Navratilova learned one of the longest place names in the world. Little did she know that one day she would be in New Zealand, saying Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu to compliment her thanks to the people of Tamaki Makaurau for their hospitality. She loves visiting new places and her respect for culture and people was evident.

She apparently still gets butterflies before any game she plays, and at 48, with a career straddling more than 30-plus years and counting, I would have thought she would have been in a position to control such anxieties by now.

And it seems reputation aside, Navratilova in fact is only enhancing her reputation and will give up only when she stops enjoying it.

So, when does something have to stop being your life? It doesn't.

Navratilova still has what it takes and it was a privilege to see her play against another former world number one, Monica Seles, who just might have the motivation and commitment to make a comeback. This match signalled Seles' return to tennis after a foot injury kept her from competition for 18 months.

And Seles' return might contrast the 2005 retirement of Australian Open finalist Lindsay Davenport, who left those of us who had been glued to the television with an "I hope to be back" statement.

I'm sure we all thought Davenport had the title in the bag, but game 5 of set 2 saw a lost opportunity that she seemed unable to shake and she capitulated. She had 6-break points and I think if she had won that match she would have gone on to take the title. But Serena Williams held serve and Davenport consequently lost nine games in a row and with it the match.

It was a good return to winning form for Williams, who has the ability to lift her performance quite markedly, especially when it seemed after what I thought initially was a typically Australian netball style strategic injury break.

The physio did a great job and Williams' service game particularly was transformed.

And it was fitting to see Margaret Court, winner of 11 Australian Open titles, mark the centenary of the Open by presenting the winner's trophy to Williams.

Hopefully, someone is talking to Seles about her build-up to the 2006 Australian Open and competing in the ASB Classic. There is no harm in asking.

* Louisa Wall is a former New Zealand rugby and netball representative

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a1 at 02 Sep 2014 17:06:06 Processing Time: 777ms