Martina Navratilova (born October 18, 1956) is undoubtedly the greatest female tennis player in the long history of the game.
She played on the WTA Tour, competing in the singles from 1973 until 1994. She won 18 major singles titles from 1978-1990 (including nine at Wimbledon including six in a row 1982-1987), 167 singles tournaments (out of 380 played) and 162 doubles tournaments (out of 286 played) including 31 in the major competitions.
She was born in Prague and grew up in the Krkonose region. When her parents separated she went with her mother to Revnice where she became interested in tennis. Her mother re-married in 1962 and her stepfather, Mirek Navratil,became her first coach. She played in her first junior tournament in 1964 and began working with George Parma. She became a professional player in 1973, reaching the quarter-finals of her first Grand Slam event. In
September 1975 she took up permanent residence in the US after the
tournament in New York City (she became a US citizen in 1981).
Initially unsuccessful it was not until 1978 that she won her first major
title, beating Chris Evert to win the Wimbeldon women's singles. A rigourous
training regime finally showed its worth from 1982 when she won fifteen
singles tournaments and fourteen doubles in that year and 28 in the
following year, just missing a singles Grand Slam. She had a extended and
fiercely competitive on-court rivalry with Chris Evert, a clash of
contrasting styles that lasted until Evert retired in 1988.
The rise of young female stars in the late 1980s broke Navratilova's
dominance. In 1991 she lost in three major finals, every time to Monica
Seles. Her last major Open victory was in 1993, when she beat Seles to win
the Paris Open. She announced her intention to retire from the WTA Tour at
the end of 1994 and in that year she still made two Open finals (Rome and
Wimbledon), losing both to Conchita Martinez.
In 2000 Martina Navratilova was grandly inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.
She returned to the professional tennis circuit after her retirement, and as
of 2003 was playing competitively. In January 2003 she won the Australian
Open mixed doubles title with Leander Paes, thus becoming only the third
player (after Doris Hart and Margaret Court to win every possible title
(singles, women's doubles, mixed doubles) from the four Grand Slam
tournaments. At the same time, at 46 years and 3 months, she became the
oldest player, male or female, to have won a Grand Slam title, eclipsing the
record set by Norman Brookes, who was a month younger when he won the mens doubles at the Australian Championships in 1924.
Martina's return to tennis sees her still winning Grand Slam doubles titles
after the retirement of Martina Hingis, who was named after her.
In July 2003, again with Leander Paes, she won the Wimbledon mixed doubles,
equalling Billie Jean King's record of 20 Wimbledon titles, which is what
she came out of retirement specifically to chase.
Her 58 grand slam titles place her second on the all-time list behind
Australia's Margaret Court, who has 62.