NOW WE HAVE BETTER ATHLETES — NAVRATILOVA

Martina Navratilova says she'll play the US Open series tournaments and then retire. Here is VIJAY PARTHASARATHY'S second week diary from Wimbledon.

July 1: The tournament has tipped over into the second week. With all this experience behind me, I can now say it's not the easiest thing for a young reporter to ask questions at a Wimbledon post-match press conference.

On the face of it, it shouldn't be so complicated. Isn't that what is expected of a journalist, you smirk. I like to believe I have a fairly outgoing personality; I don't have confidence issues.

And, in one sense, this isn't altogether different from asking questions in your Class Eight history class. Except, of course, this is altogether different. You could be looking to feed words into a player's mouth, or you might have a genuinely relevant question to ask; sometimes you could even come up with an original approach.

But as you raise your hand tentatively, you begin to choke. You feel a kinship with Kim Clijsters at that moment. Just as you begin to mumble, someone else cuts you off. It will keep happening until you seize your moment.

A couple of European journalists smile serenely when I mention all this and say it is understandable — not that it ever happened to them, of course, but still, you know.

July 3: Dinner at `Masala' Indian restaurant in Earls Court, for the third time since I got here. The place is a bit cramped and water drips from the ceiling — not posh, if that's what you're looking for — but the food is highly recommended. The cuisine is mainly Punjabi. Unlike most Indian restaurants in England, here they don't pamper the Western palate by holding back on the spices. The biryani is good, the mixed vegetable dish excellent. Interestingly, many "Indian'' places in England are in fact run by Bangladeshi expatriates; Masala is run by a business-savvy, middle-aged Pakistani who looks like David Suchet from the TV show, `Poirot'. "Good day at tennis?" he enquires chattily as he bustles around behind the counter.

July 4: A streaker interrupts Maria Sharapova's quarter-final match against Elena Dementieva. Sharapova turns her face away determinedly while Dementieva is clearly not averse to a sneak peek.

Contrary to what you'd expect, it is Sharapova who loses three of the next four games. (She does win the match easily, though.) "I didn't really look at the guy. I didn't want to look at all the details,'' Sharapova says somewhat self-righteously afterwards. Streakers in Wimbledon are not a very common sight. There was one in 2002; the first such incident occurred, if I remember right, just before the Richard Krajicek versus Malivai Washington final in 1996.

It's all taken in good spirit — even the usually vigilant security guards can see the funny side, and they take their time before wrapping the offender in a red blanket. Even so, Sander Lantinga, 29, of the Netherlands, receives a caution afterwards.

July 5: Alan Chalmers, the steward manning the press gate to Centre Court, is convinced it will rain during today's quarter-final match. "Have you brought your raincoat, lad?" he asks a five-year-old sternly.

The terrorised English boy hides behind his mother in the spectators' queue. Security men are less amused than yesterday when two father's rights activists run onto court during the Ancic-Federer quarter-final match, wearing T-shirts that read, "Family Law: It's a racket''. A spokeswoman for the All England Lawn Tennis Club says tighter security measures — such as fencing around the courts — may be introduced, if such intrusions become commonplace.

Afterwards, I accidentally knock my shoulders against Bud Collins, the well-known tennis columnist and commentator, in the main interview room. A bit surprising that I should do so, given that he's glaringly visible in his flamboyant full-sleeves shirt and pistachio-green pants. Collins reminds me of Dev Anand. He's quite a character, I'm reliably informed; certainly more colourful than most pros on the circuit.

"Well played, Mario," says Collins, thumping his chest, and Mario Ancic, who has just shown tremendous heart in a losing cause against Federer, smiles ruefully. "Thanks Bud," he says.

July 6: Martina Navratilova loses both her doubles matches and remains tied alongside Billie Jean-King for most titles at Wimbledon — 20. In an interview to Sue Barker, Navratilova says that she wants to quit because after 30 years of professional tennis she needs to spend time with her family and friends. "I played my best tennis in the 80s.

"I was naive in the 70s, I dominated the 80s, hung on in the 90s, and I'm still here in 2006," she says. "Now we have better athletes, they are bigger in size, stronger. The racquets have made the power too much. Someone like McEnroe or Hingis can't win anymore.

"You can't afford to have a situation in tennis where racquet companies are dictating terms." Navratilova says she'll play the US Open series tournaments and then retire. "After that I'd love to work with BBC or anyone else. It's fun to talk to an audience that loves the game."

July 7: Sirens go off and for two minutes London comes to a standstill. This is of course in honour of the victims of last year's London bombings. Airport-style scanners have been introduced at the entry gates and security over the past fortnight has been particularly tight.

The first anniversary of the London bombings falls today, and the newspapers here are full of feel-good survivor stories. The West (and, consequently, the rest of the world) takes attacks on its own territory very seriously; everyone has heard of 9/11, 7/7, the Madrid bombings. It's another thing that few here have heard of the Mumbai serial blasts, or the Ghatkopar bus bombings.

July 8: Amelie Mauresmo might have finally shed the `choker' tag for good. Certainly she believes so, going by what she said in the post-match on-court interview: "I don't want anyone to talk about my nerves anymore!"

After the new champion's press conference, I lie in wait for Peter Bodo, senior editor with Tennis magazine, and one of the most incisive writers on the sport. His recent piece on serve and volley tennis, titled The Snow Leopards, was a minor masterpiece, I gush. For those who haven't read it, Bodo convincingly argues that the once magical appellation, Wimbledon champion, no longer gets the respect it once did; now that players are approaching different surfaces in practically the same way, Wimbledon is increasingly becoming irrelevant.

July 9: After the Federer press conference this afternoon, Bodo tells me that he'd expected Federer to win, but that the match might have gone either way.

It's hard to make predictions in sport obviously, and Nadal, in Bodo's opinion, is very strong mentally. He has a few interesting things to say about Sania Mirza, incidentally. "She's obviously talented, has a very good forehand but she is rash and immature at the moment. She had a good first year despite not having very good technique; she got by with her forehand. This year players are pumped up — beating Mirza has become a big deal, although it shouldn't be that way. Let's see, she has potential, she could still turn into a decent player.''