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20 years on, Navratilova wins again in Prague

Written by: Staff

PRAGUE, May 9 (Reuters) Twenty years on, Martina Navratilova made a winning return to the Czech Republic today, winning her first match in her homeland since she played for the United States in the 1986 Fed Cup final.

Navratilova, who holds 58 Grand Slam titles, teamed up with Czech Barbara Strycova to win their first round doubles match 6-2 6-3 against Czech Olga Blahotova and American Asha Rolle at the Challenger Series Prague Open tennis tournament.

Born in Communist-ruled Czechoslovakia, Navratilova emigrated to the United States and took American citizenship in 1981.

She last played in Prague in the final of the 1986 Fed Cup when she helped the U.S. team to victory -- on the same Prague court -- and admitted before the match she was as nervous as she was before hitting the grass courts of Wimbledon.

But the 49-year-old, and her 29-years junior partner, held their nerves once on court, looking sharp in advancing to the next round where they will face the American duo of Ashley Harkleroad and Bethanie Mattek.

''It was an experience I wouldn't change for anything else,'' she said after receiving a warm reception before the match and wild cheers with each winner.

''A person can't prepare for it. When I went on court I kept telling myself I had to do something to make sure it wouldn't affect me,'' she said of the emotions of returning to play in her home country.

Reuters PDS VP0150

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