Chosen in draft, Navratilova will play for Freedom

Posted: April 03, 2003

Martina Navratilova, whose 167 singles titles are the most of any player - male or female - in tennis history, was selected by the Freedoms in yesterday's World Team Tennis (WTT) marquee draft.

WTT held both its marquee and regular drafts yesterday via teleconference from its New York City headquarters. The Freedoms will begin their third season competing at Cabrini College in Radnor. The schedule for the regular season, which runs from July 7 to 27, will be released later this month.

The marquee draft included big-name players who won't compete in every match this summer. WTT teams play 14 matches - seven at home.

Navratilova, 46, will be reunited with Billie Jean King, who is a cofounder of the WTT and owns more than 60 percent of the league. King was responsible for bringing the Freedoms to the Philadelphia area.

"Martina is very excited to be playing in Philadelphia," King said yesterday during a telephone interview. "She said she is ready to play singles, doubles or mixed doubles."

According to King, Navratilova has agreed to play a minimum of two home matches and four on the road for the Freedoms.

"I think she has been playing as well as she has for the last five years," said King, who will appear at the Arthur Ashe Center in Manayunk at 1 p.m. today in a charity challenge to raise money for the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education program.

Navratilova owns 18 Grand Slam singles titles, including a record nine Wimbledon championships. She was the No. 3 pick in the marquee draft.

Anna Kournikova was the first pick of the marquee draft, going to the Kansas City Explorers.

Freedoms general manager Jeff Harrison said that Andy Roddick of the St. Louis Aces will be in the area as a visiting player against the Delaware Smash, who play at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington.

Kournikova has agreed to make an appearance at Cabrini against the Freedoms. Another player who will compete at Cabrini against the Freedoms is Boris Becker, whom the New York Buzz selected in the marquee draft.

The Freedoms selected Russian Vera Zvonareva with their first pick in the WTT roster draft. She is ranked No. 33 in singles on the WTA Tour. The Freedoms also drafted Elena Tatarkova from the Ukraine and two Australians who are known for their doubles success, Nathan Healey and Andrew Florent.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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