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Old May 9th, 2004, 03:23 PM   #1
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Martina remembers her nine wins (TENNIS article)

Here's an article from the July 1994 edition of TENNIS. Apologies in advance if this is a repost.

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Martina remembers her nine wins (TENNIS -- July 1994)

When Martina Navratilova steps onto her beloved lawns of Wimbledon this year, it will be her last opportunity to reach double digits in singles titles. At 37, the nine-time Wimbledon singles champion will be the oldest player in the draw as well as its most prolific winner, with 17 total Wimbledon crowns, three shy of Billie Jean King's record 20.

What drives her after all these years? "I still feel I can play the game," she says. "I love the game and I get intense pleasure out of hitting the ball just the way I want to. I enjoy getting better, learning about the game and still trying to find ways to improve."

DONNA DOHERTY asked Navratilova to take us through those nine wins -- to remember the emotions, the challenges on and off court, and most of all, the feeling of what it means to be a Wimbledon champion over and over and over...The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.

1978
Defeated Chris Evert 2-6, 6-4, 7-5
"I played Evonne (Goolagong) in the semifinals. It was like 2-0 in the third when she hurt her calf. I was break point down on my serve and I hit this wide ball to her forehand. I was at net and as she's running wide, she hit the ball, let out a terrible scream and went down. I stopped playing and her ball sailed over my head and landed inside the sideline. There was no question I could have had it if I didn't stop playing, but I stopped out of concern for her. Then I asked the umpire to play two and the umpire wouldn't. The crowd was upset that I wanted to play a let, and I was going crazy because I could have played the ball. I broke back and won the match, so I was the bad guy.
"It was funny, because here I got to my first Wimbledon final and I'm the bad guy. And Chris beat Virginia Wade in the other semi, so she was the bad guy. I think the British couldn't decide who to pull for in the final! I remember that Chris was up 5-4 in the third set and I just served really well. I didn't feel any pressure at that point. I hit really good serves, then I played a really good game to break her and then I served it out at love. I got all my first serves in. I don't remember anything other than playing well."

1979
Defeated Chris Evert 6-4, 6-4
"I was sick with a really bad cold during the first week. I walked around with a big box of Kleenex, drinking tea during my matches. If it hadn't been Wimbledon I probably would have defaulted. By the quarters and semis I was fine.
"I had a really tough three-setter in my opening match against a young South African, Tanya Harford -- you know, the match where as defending champion you open the tournament. She was very talented with a good forehand, slice backhand and a good slider serve to my backhand. It was easy to play baseliners, but serve-and-volleyers were rough on me back then because I didn't have a topspin backhand so I had a hard time passing people. She was playing well, and I'm thinking: 'Oh great, how many defending champions have lost their opening match!' But I was fine after that.
"My mom was there, too. The fact that we were together for the first time after four years overwhelmed any kind of pressure that I may have felt of having to play well."

1982
Defeated Chris Evert 6-1, 3-6, 6-2
"You know, I don't remember much of anything except it was good to win after the two-year drought. I had a pretty good streak going. I'd won 54 of my last 55 matches, and I'd just started playing with this new Yonex racquet before the French.
"I was working with Renee Richards, and for the first time I had a game plan going into a match: what should work, what to look for. Not only did I have a Plan A, I had Plans B and C, whereas before, I really had no plans going into matches. I just sort of played. I had no strategy whatsoever."

1983
Defeated Andrea Jaeger 6-0, 6-3
"I felt a little bad that it wasn't a better match. For the spectators it wasn't that great a match to watch. I used to actually feel that way, but I don't care any more! I don't care how it happens. But Andrea didn't play very well. She was better than that. The highest drama in that match was when my skirt fell off in the opening game.
"Sometimes when you're dominating, you don't even know it's not a close match. You're more aware that you wish your opponents were playing better because you can only play as well as your opponent."

1984
Defeated Chris Evert 7-6, 6-2
"I beat Chris pretty easily at the French and then we had this really close first set in this match and I'm thinking, 'Great, I'll kill Chris on clay and now I'm going to lose to her on grass. That would be a switch.' She played really well. She was very aggressive, really loose, going for her shots. She was hitting big serves, big second serves, returning very well and coming to net. All of a sudden I had to hit passing shots and I wasn't ready for that. I think once I started passing her a couple of times she stayed back again. Once the first set was over I relaxed and put in something like 90 per cent of my first serves.
"This match made our head-to-head record 30-30, and I said I wished we could quit right then and not have to play each other again. She killed me the first three or four years we played because I wasn't any good. It was a long time before Chris gave me credit, so it was a sort of minor vindication. She always used to say her toughest opponents were Billie Jean and Evonne. I honestly felt we should just call it even.
(The Fleet Street newspapers were out in full force, too, that year because of Navratilova's relationship with Judy Nelson). "They were knocking on the doors at 8 in the morning and 11 at night. You end up living like a hermit with the curtains drawn. I didn't mind the questions, I minded the invasion of privacy."

1985
Defeated Chris Evert 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
"I didn't play well in the first set, and I'm sure I was timid because I had just gotten beat by Chris at the French. Chris played well and I was cautious. But then I said, 'Damn it, this is grass and I'm going in,' I became more aggressive. When I get timid, I get unsure about whether I should come in or not. When you get timid with Chris, you're dead. I just started barrelling to net on anything and that saved me.
(With that win, Navratilova and Evert had won the last 15 Grand Slam titles.) "That's an amazing streak."

1986
Defeated Hana Mandlikova 7-6, 6-3
"A fan at Eastbourne told me I wasn't tossing the ball as high as I used to on my serve, so I changed that for Wimbledon. I was down 5-2 at one stage in that match and then I broke and I was on a serving streakm something like 21 first serves in a row. That was a crazy match. It had been raining, and they felt the lines weren't white enough for TV, so they painted them and they were slippery as s...!
"Hana kept slipping on the lines, because when she served she'd jump straight up and land on the baseline. She'd try to take off for the net and would fall flat on her face. Normally, when I receive serve, I like to stand on the baseline and then move forward, but I had to start in front because I would slip. I couldn't believe they did that! But I served really well and that saved me. Hana always played well against me in big matches, too. I didn't play well against her because there was a lot of emotional stuff going on, but I put it together." (This victory tied Suzanne Lenglen's five straight wins).

1987
Defeated Steffi Graf 7-5, 6-3
"I never was aware of any records until the press pointed them out to me. I knew Billie Jean won Wimbledon six times, but I didn't know about Helen Wills Moody's eight. Then people started saying I was only playing for records. I wasn't. The nine Wimbledons? Once I got to eight, it was kind of silly not to go after it. Once I got close to records, then I'd admit I did want to break them. It just made things more interesting. It gave me a goal. What other goal am I going to have at this point?
"I hadn't won another title going into this Wimbledon, and though there was pressure because I hadn't won anything, I think it also took some pressure off, because now I wasn't expected to win. I had a really good game plan from Renee. Just serve to the backhand. Don't even think of the forehand unless you're up 40-love.
"I never lost my serve in that match. At the trophy presentation, Steffi asked me how many more I wanted and I said, 'Nine is my lucky number.' Actually I thought 12 was do-able. When you win six in a row, you get greedy and think of course you can win six more."

1988
Defeated Zina Garrison 6-4, 6-1
"Zina played great to beat Steffi in the semis, but I was so ready for Steffi and here I'm playing Zina, so all of a sudden it changed the whole pressure. Here I was playing someone I lost to once in 27 times.
"I had put in a lot of hard work. When I lost in the final the year before, Billie Jean said, 'O.K., you've got 365 days to get ready for next year.'
"So I was focussed and ready. I don't think it would have mattered if I played Steffi because I was so ready and I was not going to be denied.
"The only question in my mind was if my knees were going to hold up, and they did well enough.
"I could never get tired of winning Wimbledon. To me, Wimbledon is what tennis is all about -- where you feel tennis, you don't just play it."
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Best left-right combination by a German (and that includes Max Schmeling): Steffi Graf. All she did in 1987 was knock Navratilova out of #1 and try to knock Evert out of the sport. (Mike Lupica in "The Best and Worst of Tennis in 1987", World Tennis)

"A couple of years ago, we nicknamed Steffi Graf's forehand 'Jaws'. And that music would go perfectly when she starts running in to the net, swarming on that little ball." (JoAnne Russell, during the 1988 Wimbledon final between Graf and Navratilova)
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Old May 9th, 2004, 03:38 PM   #2
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Thanks so much for this Samn. I like Martina's candour when talking about her own weaknesses but frankly have a hard time believing that she was telling the truth wwhen she talked about not knowing about the records. She was often bombarded with questions about that during post-match interviews at Wimbledon, and her close friendship with BJK, the most record-conscious player of them all, would surely have given her a thorough schooling in all that stuff.

Maybe the main reason she's been my fave all these years, apart from her technical ability and overall style of play, is because she had such a rough ride in her personal life and had to grow up and overcome so many obstacles without a family round to support her and a press which was almost always hostile towards her until she was no longer the #1. She always touched my heart, somehow.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 05:47 PM   #3
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It's not too hard for me to believe Martina. I'm pretty sure when she won her first tournament in Orlando in 1974, she wasn't thinking, "Hey, I think I'll set the record for most singles titles won" Or to think she decided to go after Helen Wills' record after winning the title #1 in 1978. By 1983 or 1984, yes, but by then she'd already won it 5 times.

And she has admited as much. Once she got closer to a record, she went after it. Especially in the 90s, when she was big on setting goals and targets, it gave her a few extra years on the singles tour.

And Martina & Billie Jean were not on good terms at all times. For a long while in the 80s, they barely spoke. It was only after Billie Jean starting coaching her in 1989 that they became good friends again.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 05:55 PM   #4
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Hi Zummi!
I took that comment at the time it was quoted in the article (94 looking back on 87). Then, I do believe she was aware of how close she was but not, as you said, way back in her career. Sorry if my comment was misleading. Maybe Martina wasn't talking specifically about 87 when she said it and it just sounded that way after the journalist compiled the article.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 06:26 PM   #5
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Hi Andy,
Yeah, I think the way the article was compiled, it might have come across that way. I don't think Martina meant to say she only became aware of the record in 1987; it was pretty obvious she knew about it much earlier. Even the year before, when she tied Suzanne Lenglen with 5 straight titles, there was a big deal being made about how close she was to #9.

Bud Collins had also been ribbing her about Billie Jean King's 20 since 1987 but I don't get the feeling she *really* wants to break that record. If it happens, great; if it doesn't, that's ok too. As good friends as they are, I've heard there was some tension last year when Martina won #20. Billie Jean was there at Wimbledon on that final day, and actually watched the Women's Over-35 doubles final but chose not stay for the mixed final. I think it would be better if they remained tied with 20 each; I'd much rather Martina won an Olympic medal this year anyway!
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Old May 9th, 2004, 06:47 PM   #6
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Martina's records are incredible. I can't help but wonder how long they're going to last. The only two players right now I see as having any real chance to catch up to Martina's singles wins are Venus and Serena. They have the potential, but it would be tough even for them. As far as the 20 titles go I really don't see anyone on the horizon even getting close right now. Most of the top women have totally abandon mixed and many no longer play women's doubles. And I can't see too many players playing as long as Martina has been playing. Martina and BJK may share that record for a long time. Or at least that's the way it looks now.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 07:23 PM   #7
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Old May 9th, 2004, 07:31 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Zummi
Hi Andy,
Yeah, I think the way the article was compiled, it might have come across that way. I don't think Martina meant to say she only became aware of the record in 1987; it was pretty obvious she knew about it much earlier. Even the year before, when she tied Suzanne Lenglen with 5 straight titles, there was a big deal being made about how close she was to #9.

Bud Collins had also been ribbing her about Billie Jean King's 20 since 1987 but I don't get the feeling she *really* wants to break that record. If it happens, great; if it doesn't, that's ok too. As good friends as they are, I've heard there was some tension last year when Martina won #20. Billie Jean was there at Wimbledon on that final day, and actually watched the Women's Over-35 doubles final but chose not stay for the mixed final. I think it would be better if they remained tied with 20 each; I'd much rather Martina won an Olympic medal this year anyway!
BJK only has that one absolute record, so I understand how jealous she is of preserving it. Maybe she's scared she's going to drop dead on the eve of the day her record is broken, as Elizabeth Ryan did. Funny but I'd rather see Martina add another slam title than an olympic medal. If by a minor miracle she wins doubles and mixed in Paris, she'd equal Court's all-time record of 13 titles there!

btw, how has Leander paes been doing these last 6 months? I haven't heard anything about him since Oz, so don't know if he's back on top form or not.

On the subject of BJK, JeanMi18 had dinner last night and were speculating over the identity of the female tennis player with whom Larry King allegedly had an affair in the early 80s. Any ideas?
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Old May 9th, 2004, 08:17 PM   #9
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Andy, it seems to me you do not have a very positive opinion of Billie Jean King!

While I think Billie Jean would be sorry to see her record broken - anyone would - I don't think it's fair to compare her to Elizabeth Ryan. Ryan was just obsessed with her record, she hated Billie Jean for attempting to break it and refused to speak with her.

Billie Jean obviously knew when she started helping Martina in 1989 that there was a good chance she was helping Martina break her record. Martina was at 17 titles at the time. I think it speaks volumes of Billie Jean's character that she agreed to be Martina's coach inspite of it all. In those 6 years with Billie Jean, Martina had 5 very good chances to win Wimbledon, capitalizing twice (1990 singles, 1993 mixed) and falling short three times (1994 singles, 1989 doubles, 1991 doubles).

While I would be ecstatic if Martina won a title at Wimbledon this year - more so for the win rather than for the record - I think it would be fitting if they remained tied. Martina helped Billie Jean get that twentieth title while Billie Jean helped Martina with the 9th singles.

A title at Roland Garros? Ha ha It would take more than a miracle!

Leander Paes is fine, back on tour again. His results this year have not been great though. Outside of the Aussie mixed doubles final, it's been a struggle for him.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 08:26 PM   #10
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I have very mixed feelings about BJK, I must admit, Zummi. Technically, she was a very accomplished player, and with the heart of a lion(ess) but I also find her a very difficult person to understand: she rubs me up the wrong way.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 08:57 PM   #11
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Wasn't it 4-3 in the third when Evonne injured herself, not 2-0. I am positive it was towards the end of the match and when Evonne won the point she tied MN at 4 all. God I wish she would have stayed healthy and won that tournament.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 10:35 PM   #12
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Yes, it was at 3-3 & break point to Goolagong-Cawley. That point helped her go up 4-3.

Billie Jean King, in her former role as U.S. Fed Cup captain, could certainly be very irritating, Andy, but as a player I'm a big fan! It is hard for me to overlook her accomplishments and all that she did for womens tennis.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 10:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zummi
Yes, it was at 3-3 & break point to Goolagong-Cawley. That point helped her go up 4-3.

Billie Jean King, in her former role as U.S. Fed Cup captain, could certainly be very irritating, Andy, but as a player I'm a big fan! It is hard for me to overlook her accomplishments and all that she did for womens tennis.

I agree. But what bothers me about BJK is the fact that she has had run ins with so many players. Alice Marble yelled at her, Maureen Connolly yelled at her, she got into it with Gigi Fernandez and Jennifer Capriati and she even had a bit of a problem with the easy going Lindsay Davenport.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 11:46 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by RoanHJ
I agree. But what bothers me about BJK is the fact that she has had run ins with so many players. Alice Marble yelled at her, Maureen Connolly yelled at her, she got into it with Gigi Fernandez and Jennifer Capriati and she even had a bit of a problem with the easy going Lindsay Davenport.
i watched that match live and ironically, I was rooting for Evonne at that point but felt so sorry for Martina that she had reached her first final under such sad circumstances that I supported her to win and thereafter became an unconditional fan.

BJK irritates me also because she is so ungracious towards so many of her contemporaries - esp. Court, Bueno and even Evert, whom she slags off as "passive". Plus, her contribution to women's tennis is not all positive, imo - she nearly wrecked the entire European circuit because of her WTT venture with Larry and also undermined many other great tournaments. Her view of tennis history imo is slanted (in her favour) to say the least and she criticises Madge for being money-motivated yet to me there is no other player who was as money-motivated as BJK.
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Old May 9th, 2004, 11:52 PM   #15
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Well, like I said earlier, as Fed Cup captain, she was a tyrant. There really was no excuse for her antagonizing so many players over the years - Capriati, Davenport, Lisa Raymond, Gigi Fernandez, Amy Frazier etc. etc.

The Alice Marble incident... There are two sides to every story. Alice portrayed herself as the victim b/c Billie Jean didn't show her enough compassion when Alice was ill. But Alice was way out of line when she blasted Billie Jean when she said she wanted to become the greatest tennis player. Billie Jean was only 14 or 15 years old at the time.

Maureen Connolly's behavior was just plain strange She supposedly verbally attacked a 16-year-old Billie Jean in order to "toughen her up". Told her she was wasting her time and would never amount to anything. When in reality, Maureen strongly believed in her talent and thought she was the best American prospect of her age group. She just thought some reverse psychology would help. As Billie Jean later said, it nearly destroyed her confidence.
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