Navratilova closes pro career with 59th Grand Slam title

NEW YORK -- Even in her final pro match, Martina Navratilova was eager to get going.

"Anytime, darling," she told the chair umpire before he signaled for play to start.

A month shy of her 50th birthday, Navratilova closed her competitive career Saturday night in fitting fashion: a mixed doubles championship at the U.S. Open for her 59th Grand Slam title.

Navratilova teamed with Bob Bryan to beat Kueta Peschke and Martin Damm 6-2, 6-3 before an appreciative crowd that stood and cheered throughout the final game.

"See, if you play long enough, good things happen," she told the fans. "I should know."

"It's been quite a run," she said.

The mixed doubles final was played at Arthur Ashe Stadium right after Maria Sharapova beat Justine Henin-Hardenne for the women's singles title. The lower bowl was mostly filled as the match went past 11 p.m., with fans eager to see one of tennis' greats.

Navratilova left the sport in 1994 after winning 167 singles titles. She returned for doubles in 2000, and insisted before this tournament that it would be her last.

Damm and Peschke are both from the Czech Republic. Navratilova defected from Czechoslovakia in 1975, announcing it during the U.S. Open.

Navratilova won six straight Wimbledon singles titles from 1982-87.

Bryan and Navratilova won $150,000 for this final victory. When they were presented the ceremonial check, Bryan handed it to Navratilova.

"All yours," he said.