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Match boiled down to the Martinas

Martina peered across the net and into the eyes of . . . Martina.

And so, after 11 years of Martina Navratilova and Martina Hingis inhabiting the same world, this curious fairy tale in a tennis setting resulted at last in a collision last night on the banks on the Charles.

The once-upon-a-time factor: In 1980, a woman in Czechoslovakia names her newborn for the great Czech-grown champion Navratilova, expecting greatness to strike again like lightning under her tutelage. Who could imagine that Melanie Hingis's dream would materialize, or that her prodigious protege would one day confront the original Martina?

But it happened, the full Martinazation of a court, the blue-tinted rectangle within Harvard's Bright Arena -- a faceoff with rackets in a hockey rink, although they weren't on their own as in triumphant times.

It was a World Team Tennis encounter of the newly resurrected Boston Lobsters and the New York Sportimes, won by Martina II and the visitors, 23-13. Won because Hingis was able to outplay her namesake in three events: singles, doubles, and mixed.

Fourteen years was too much to give away, even in the one-set sprints of WTT.

For Martina I, it was an uproarious homecoming -- for a while. Back in The Bean after a 27-year absence, once again in the uniform of the reconstituted Lobsters, she was loudly welcomed by a gathering of about 3,000, almost filling the place.

''I never thought I'd see her and the Lobsters again. It was wonderful even if they lost," said fan Marion Gale of Revere, who considers herself ''an original Lobsterian."

''It was great to be back," said Navratilova, a determined attacker but bageled in the singles, 5-0, by missing out on the key points. ''The crowd was terrific. I thought I played well, but Martina was very sharp, a fine tactician. Sure, I was curious to see how I could do against her."

So were the customers, who came from as far off as California. Tennis tour operators Steve and Anne Furgal of San Diego brought 50 of their friends from here and there to town for a lobster dinner and a Lobster boiling.

Martina II, off the tour for three years with a variety of injuries, had wondered ''for a long time" what it would be like to accost Martina I.

''It was cool. Coming to the net, she gave me a target" -- which Martina II bull's-eyed with a flock of flying passers.

Before the match, Hingis had predicted with a wink, ''Definitely the winner will be Martina."

Amid the raucous music and screaming for the Lobsters, Martina II ''thought I would be nervous, but I wasn't. I think this format of one-set matches is just right for me now."

They had watched each other for years. A good thing about WTT is that the brevity makes it possible for both Martinas to look good, show the stuff that made them great, provide an evening's entertainment.

When two old boys from the 'hood, ex-Harvard notables turned Lobsters Jon Chu and Tom Blake, held Mark Merklein and Robert Kendrick to a 5-4 win in doubles, and Blake beat Kendrick, 5-3, life was swell for the home side with a 9-8 lead.

But with Martinas I and II as the cleanup hitters in the remaining skirmishes, it was Hingis carrying the evening. She and Jennie Hopkins beat Navratilova and Daja Bedanova, 5-3. Then she and Merklein put the lid on the Lobster pot, 5-1.

Navratilova is contracted to the Lobsters for six matches. Having led Wednesday's 21-17 victory over the Delaware Smash, she will appear once more here, July 21 against Hartford.

Arrival and departure -- that was the theme 11 years ago on a rainy October night in Zurich. A child named Martina was making her debut as a professional tennis player, and a career woman named Martina was about to bid farewell.

Martina Hingis, 14, was coming and Martina Navratilova, 38, supposedly going.

The occasion was the European Indoor Championships, including both Martinas, and each won an early match. Martina I was complimentary: ''The kid's keeping the name in business."

Martina II remembers, ''We almost played each other shortly after that at Filderstadt, but I lost to Marianne Werdel, and she lost to Anke Huber the round before."

So they waited 11 years. WTT has preserved them nicely.

On her first visit to Boston, Hingis, a high school dropout, was most pleased. Not only did she get the better of Martina I, but, ''Now I can tell people I went to Harvard."

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