Graf edges Navratilova in exhibition


TOKYO — Once again, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova needed a tiebreaker to settle the score.

Playing “Dream Match 2008” before a sellout crowd at Tokyo’s Ariake Stadium on Saturday, Graf defeated Navratilova 8-7 after winning a tiebreaker 10-5.

“It was great that it went to a tiebreaker,” Graf said. “It was a lot of fun playing Martina again.

“It brought back so many memories.”

In their first match in 14 years, Graf took a 6-3 lead before Navratilova tied the match at 6-6 and forced a tiebreaker.

“It was almost a surreal experience,” Navratilova said. “I felt like we went back in time.

“People always asked me who the toughest player to play against was and if it wasn’t Steffi, I don’t know who it was.”

Before retiring, Graf and Navratilova met 18 times and each won nine times. The last time the two greats met was at the 1994 Toray Pan Pacific in Tokyo, which Graf won 6-2, 6-4.

After defeating Navratilova on Saturday, Graf lost to Kimiko Date of Japan 6-2, 6-3. In an earlier match, Date beat Navratilova 8-6.

Date and Graf played a memorable Fed Cup match at the same venue in 1996, when Graf led 5-1 in the first set but Date rallied to win the set and match 7-6 (7), 3-6, 12-10.

“It’s so much fun to be back in this stadium,” Graf said. “I have so many good memories of playing here and I hope the fans enjoyed today’s matches.”

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