Lawn Tennis (USA)
Martina Navratilova was born on October. 18, 1956, in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and became a U.S. citizen in 1981, after defecting six years earlier. She was raised by her mother, Jana, and stepfather, Mirek Navratil, whose name she took. Arguably the greatest player of all time, she was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000.
She first displayed her talent as a 16-year-old, in 1973 at the French Open, when she defeated the experienced Nancy Richey and then reached the quarterfinals without being seeded. Her intense rivalry with another legend, Chris Evert started the same year at Ohio at an indoor tourney. Evert says, “Though she was overweight and inexperienced, it was a close match. I didn’t know her, neither could I pronounce her name, but I knew she would be trouble if she got into shape.”
The 140 lb., 5’8” Navratilova made extreme fitness her aim, following a computer-generated regimen in training and diet. Evert was now not only her friend and role model but a rival who had to be defeated every time they met. When Evert was in top form, their track record read 21-4, but Navratilova won their last encounter in Chicago in 1988 to wind up with a 37-43 edge. Three years later, Navratilova also overtook Evert’s record 157 pro singles tournament victories.
Navratilova’s best performances have come at the Mecca of Lawn Tennis, the Centre Court at Wimbledon. In 1990 she won her ninth singles title there, beating the previous best of eight by Helen Wills Moody in 1938.
She began her run at Moody beating top-seeded Evert, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, in the 1978 final.
Navratilova then reeled off victories in the ladies’ singles for six successive years (1982 to 1987), snapping Suzanne Lenglen's mark of five (1919-23). Looking for a seventh consecutive win in 1988, she was defeated by Grand Slammer Steffi Graf in the final. Navratilova won the 1990 crown in her 11th final. She played one more singles final at the Center Court, at the age of 37, after which she bid adieu. She lost the final to the backhand passes of a younger and fitter Cochita Martinez.
Navratilova also won four U.S Open titles, three Australian and two French singles. Winning the U.S. was her most frustrating trial. Not until her 11th try, in 1983 did Navratilova make it: 6-1, 6-3, over Evert.
Only one prize, a singles Grand Slam, eluded her although she came very close to winning it in 1983 and 1984.
Navratilova, however, did register a doubles Grand Slam with Pam Shriver in 1984. Perhaps the greatest of all teams, Navratilova-Shriver won 20 major titles. In 1987 she made a rare triple at the U.S. Open (singles, doubles, mixed), only the third time in the open era of Tennis.
After her defection to the US she was declared a ‘non-person’ by the Czechoslovak government, and her results were not published in any of the newspapers in her homeland. However, in 1986, she led the US to victory in the Federation Cup in Czechoslovakia much to the embarrassment of the government of her land of birth.
Martina continues to play doubles and mixed doubles at Grand Slam tournaments, having won titles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon last year, partnering India’s Leander Paes. The 46-year-old legend has now amassed 20 Wimbledon titles, the same as record holder Billie Jean King.