By Ossian Shine
LONDON, June 11 - Martina Navratilova will return
to Wimbledon singles action, a decade after bowing out, later
this month after being given a wildcard by organisers on Friday.
The 47-year-old, who last played singles at the grasscourt
grand slam in 1994 when she was beaten in the final by Spain's
Conchita Martinez, won the mixed doubles last year, equalling
Billie Jean King's record of 20 Wimbledon crowns.
The Czech-born American returned to grand slam singles for
the first time in a decade at the French Open last month.
Despite the best efforts of a supportive crowd, her comeback
lasted just 62 minutes and she was soundly beaten 6-1 6-3 by
Gisella Dulka in the first round.
Navratilova, the holder of 18 grand slam singles titles,
nine of them at Wimbledon, said in Paris she felt she deserved a
wildcard but had been undecided about whether to apply for one.
Certainly the weight of public opinion was behind the player
whose 167 singles titles are more than any other player in
Her Wimbledon mixed doubles title last year was a 58th grand
slam title, placing her just four behind the record holder,
Margaret Smith of Australia.
By claiming that 58th grand slam title, Navratilova broke
her own record of becoming the oldest champion at one of the
four major events.
Aged 46 years and 261 days, she eclipsed the mark she set
when she lifted the Australian Open mixed crown, also with
India's Leander Paes, in January last year.
The other two women women's wildcards announced on Friday
were Britain's Emily Webley-Smith and Katie O'Brien.
Three more men's wildcards were also announced -- Arvind
Parmar, Mark Hilton, and Richard Bloomfield, all of Britain.
One remains to be awarded and may go to Briton Ian Flanagan,
who beat Australia's Mark Philippoussis at Queen's this week.
Organisers announced the other wildcards on Monday.
Britain's Greg Rusedski, a former U.S Open finalist, Lee
Childs, Jonathan Marray and Alex Bogdanovic were the four men to
have gained berths in the main draw.
In the women's field, Switzerland's Patty Schnyder, once
ranked as high as eighth in the world, was handed an invite for
the tournament which begins on June 21.
Britons Anne Keothavong, Jane O'Donoghue, Amanda Janes, and
Elena Baltacha were also given wildcards.