Re: Martina Navratilova Admiration Thread
Martina almost before she became Martina:
From the London "Times", 17 May 1975
A rising young star smashing her way to Wimbledon
by Rex Bellamy
"Martina Navratilova is only 18 years old. But in the first four months of the year she won £42,000 playing tennis in the United States. Uncle Sam taxed her 30 per cent. The Czechoslovak government took 20 per cent of the rest as a compulsory contribution towards national sports development. That still left the bulky lefthander more than £23,000 in pocket.
"Last Sunday, in Aix-en-Provence, Miss Navratilova crushed Evonne Goolagong in the final of the women's world team championship for the Federation Cup. With the help of Renata Tomanova (another muscular testimony to the Czech cuisine) she earned her country and eastern Europe as a whole their first world team title in either men's or women's tennis. Less than a year earlier these same Czechoslovaks had beaten Britain in the final of the under-21 competition for the Annie Soisbault Cup.
"East European nations have to make a teasing choice between political gestures and sporting prestige. Often they boycott - or scratch from - events in which South Africa takes part. For this reason Czechoslovakia had missed four consecutive Federation Cup competitions. Presumably the advent of a potential winning team made them change their minds. If so, they must be pleased with what could be construed as a contradiction of earlier policies.
"Miss Navratilova's home is Revnice, about 12 miles outside Prague. Her sister, aged 12, also plays tennis. 'The whole family are still playing tennis, even my grandmother. They were all good athletes. I started when I was five. My father is still my coach.'
"Did she have any early models? 'We didn't get to see too many tennis players. Only Wimbledon on television. I remember Billie Jean King, Nancy Gunter, Ann Jones. But as a tennis player I like Billie Jean most.'
"She used to take part in a variety of sports - ice hockey, athletics, skiing, handball, even soccer. ('I just played against the boys. As a girl, I couldn't be in the team.') She likes going to the movies, listening to classical music, reading books. A regular item of her equipment at tournaments is what looks like a handsome executive case. It is nothing of the sort: it is a backgammon board purchased in the United States, where she also buys her clothes.
"What with one thing and another it is hardly surprising that she finds the American tennis scene congenial. 'It's more enjoyable to play tennis in the States. Everything is much easier. You play indoors. So you always play. It's not windy. More spectators, more prize money. But it's more fun to play in the French or Italian because there is not so much pressure on you. There are not so many good players. On the Virginia Slims circuit there are all the good players. Then they play WTT' (the American inter-city team league).
"Her best matches before going to Aix, she reckons, were those in which she beat Christine Evert in Washington and Miss Goolagong in Boston. 'I have never played Billie Jean. My dream is to play her at Wimbledon, because that will probably be my last chance to play her. She's the greatest player. Of the other women players, I admire her the most. Not only because of her tennis ability, but also a person. She has done so much for women's tennis, women's sport.'
"Miss Navratilova is 5 ft 71/2 in tall and reluctantly concedes that her weight varies between 10st, 10lb and 11st, 6lb. Inevitably she is not always as agile and subtle as she might be, especially in picking up drop shots and short angles. One of her Federation Cup oppponents was the experienced Geraldine Barniville of Ireland, a shrewd and objective critic. 'She's terribly strong,' said Mrs Barniville. 'I don't think that half the men at home hit the ball as hard as she does. She must have wrists like iron. But she's very big and moves badly. She doesn't turn quickly.'
"A further weakness of Miss Navratilova's game is that at present her volleying is sometimes insecure. But her opponents mostly have too many problems of their own to concentrate on a cool examination of Miss Navratilova's supposed deficiencies. Her service and smash are explosive. She can really soundly and has fierce passing shots on both flanks. In the forecourt she is eager and bold, and usually has a sure touch.
"In short, she has the ability to play any kind of game on any kind of surface. But its basic nature is always aggressive - by Eastern European standards, uncommonly so. She no longer has a favourite surface. 'But I don't know whether I like to play on grass, because I didn't get used to it.'
"Her favourite strokes? 'Probably the running forehand down the line, or when I hit a really good top-spin passing shot. Because my weakness is my backhand I enjoy it more when I hit a good one. I also like to make all these fancy shots at the net - volley, drop shots.'
"In 1973 Miss Navratilova caused a stir by beating Mrs Gunter to reach the last eight of the French Championships. Last year she reached the finals of the Italian and West German Championships and, again, the last eight in Paris. In sharing the French mixed doubles title with Ivan Molina she became the youngest player ever to win a French championship. This year her further advance has been startling. She finds it difficult to explain.
"'I know I improve. I was expecting to improve. But I don't know why it happens. I was doing some physical exercises last November in Prague, so I got faster. That might be one of the reasons. I wasn't tired in the final set. I could still play my best - I didn't have to fight myself. Also, because I play all the best players and got more experience I know how to play the big points, the pressure points. And I can control myself better. I don't get upset so much by bad line calls.'
"It seems only yesterday we were assuming Miss Evert would rule the courts, especially the clay courts, for years to come. That assumption is no longer valid. But life is nothing unless it is a ceaseless quest for improvment. The ex-footballer from Revnice will really have to watch her diet - and perhaps take a few more doses of agility training. She would still be strong enough to carry all those dollar bills to the bank."
Last edited by newmark401; Dec 21st, 2011 at 09:55 PM.