It's game, set and splats to Navratilova
By Juliette Garside
Last Updated: 1:33am BST
Nine times Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, having dominated women's tennis for a quarter of a century, is now turning her attention to the business of art.
Next month, as the jet set flocks to London for Wimbledon fortnight, Ms Navratilova will unveil her first commercial exhibition in the UK.
Ms Navratilova hits paint-covered balls on to canvases in a technique she calls "tennising". The idea was originally proposed to her in 2000 by a fellow Czech, the artist Juraj Kralik, but this is the first year they have put the results up for sale.
With prices ranging from £1,500 to £126,000 for the largest pieces, Ms Navratilova, who retired from the professional circuit 18 months ago, is hoping to make tennising a second career.
"Just like when I first started playing tennis, I wasn't thinking 'I will make my life out of this'. When Juraj first came to me I thought we'd just hit a couple of balls. But it takes on a life of its own. It should be a multimillion- dollar business in a couple of years. Not for me, but for Juraj."
Mr Kralik became interested in recording tennis matches on canvas by looking at the marks left on clay courts by shoes and balls after a match.
"Sometimes one of these points can change the match, the tournament, so might change tennis history," he said. "My original idea was to get this moment onto canvas. I was looking for someone playing genius tennis and the genius number one for me was Martina."
They have now made more than 300 works together, in a series of famous courts around the world. The first commercial exhibition of Art Grand Slam was in Perth in January to coincide with the Hopman Cup, and the second in New Orleans earlier this year, where some 25 paintings were sold, raising money to refurbish local public courts.
The highest price paid in cash so far is $15,000 (£7,600), but there are T-shirts for those who cannot afford an original.
"We hope to turn this into a franchise where we can combine art, business and charity," says Ms Navratilova. She hopes to recruit one-time rival Chris Evert and her favourite doubles partner, Pam Shriver, to make future works.
Art Grand Slam is at Fairway Village, Wimbledon, from June 23 to July 6, and at Smithfield Gallery, London EC1, from June 30 to July 12.