Navratilova stands out in 'drawn' encounter

The 59-year-old Navratilova looked the most serious among the four players on the court and appeared on winning, for a change. She and Paes won the first set 6-2 and matched Sania and Bhupathi until 5-5. But the Indian pair claimed the last two games to draw level. As a result, the match ended 1-1.

Martina Navratilova stretches to play a backhand.   -  AP

After Kolkata and Hyderabad, it was the turn of Delhi’s tennis-loving crowd to watch some live action involving the legendary Martina Navratilova, the doubles specialists Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza.

Indeed, it was meant to be a fun-filled evening with the exhibition of some fine strokes and deft touches. Often, smiles were exchanged across the net as the players, almost by turns, played to the galleries. In spite of the nature of event, the crowd involvement was limited.

The 59-year-old Navratilova looked the most serious among the four players on the court and appeared on winning, for a change. She and Paes won the first set 6-2 and matched Sania and Bhupathi until 5-5. But the Indian pair claimed the last two games to draw level. As a result, the match ended 1-1.

For the record, Sania and Bhupathi emerged victorious in Kolkata on Wednesday. The following day, it was Leander who joined hands with the home favourite at Hyderabad to end up on the winning side.

Leander is my only favourite mixed-doubles player: Navratilova

But today appeared to be Navratilova's day out. She made her presence felt with some low volleys. Early in the first set, from the backcourt, her forehand cross-court passed Bhupathi and a point later, she surprised Sania with a down-the-line pass. It was indeed vintage stuff from Navratilova. For those who fell in love with sport in the 1970s and watched the all-conquering Czech sweep titles almost at will, it was indeed a treat.

Before describing Leander as her “only favourite mixed doubles player,” Navratilova said she was “getting nervous” to play before “a lot of people.”

Geared up for IPTL-II: Sania

The younger crowd was all for Sania who was playing at the Capital for the first time since the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Having won 10 doubles titles this year in the company of Martina Hingis, Sania looked forward to the upcoming IPTL-II and said, “the season has obviously been great and we have not lost a match since August. I want to retain the (IPTL) title (for Delhi Aces). With just five days to go, we all the excited and geared up.”

Asked about next year, Sania said, “I know next year an Olympic year. But we have a lot to worry about before the Olympics.”

Leander, an eternal crowd favourite on the tennis courts across the country, came up with his trademark line. “It is great to play for the country and for all of you. Thanks for coming over,” as he acknowledged the presence of a large crowd.

Bhupathi revealed he wanted to have “great entertainer” Leander in the list of players for the first season of IPTL but “he had already signed up for the other league.” He also mentioned how he everyone was looking forward to watching Roger Federer play Rafael Nadal here in the second week of December.