NAVRATILOVA, MARTINA (nee Martina Šubertová)
Born 18 October 1956 in Revnice, Czech Republic
Married Julia Lemigova on 15 December 2014 in New York
Height: 5' 8'' (1.73 m)
Played: Lefthanded with one-handed backhand. Serve and volley was her forte.
[Active 1972-1994, 2002-2006]
Empress of Wimbledon
"The greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who's ever lived."-Billie Jean King on Navratilova
"She goes from arrogance to panic with nothing in between"-Ted Tinling
"Through all her transformations -- of body, hair, clothes, glasses, nationalities, coaches, lovers -- the one thing, ever the same, ever distinct, is her voice, which is pitched to shatter a champagne flute. It brought forth sounds of decency and forthrightness, leavened with wit and compassion. Tennis was very blessed to have such a voice for so long, for these times."-Frank Deford
Over a tumultuous career spanning 4 decades Martina won 167 tournaments, (an Open era record), was #1 five consecutive years, and set an 74 win streak in singles from 1983 to 1984 (another Open record). Her 59 total Grand slams is second only to Margaret Court, who has 62. Most treasured are her 9 Wimbledon singles trophies and 20 overall titles at the Championships.
Put the package together and there is no doubt she is arguably the greatest of all time. Without doubt she reigns supreme at Wimbledon, the #1 event in tennis.
Born Martina Šubertová. Martina's parents, Mirek and Jana, divorced when she was three. When Jana remarried in 1962, Martina took the family name of her stepfather, Miroslav Navrátil. His coaching was vital to her development.
From the start her raw talent was on full display. Martina won the French mixed in 1974-her first major. Later that year came her first big tour win at Orlando. 1975 saw her reach the finals at the Australian and French. Knocking on the door; she felt constrained by a communist government that sought to control her movement and take her prize money. In a dramatic defection Martina called a press conference and announced she was seeking asylum in the US.
1976 witness a binge of eating and other distractions, in hindsight predictable given the sudden freedom of a woman not yet 20 cut off from her family. The low point came at the US Open, where she dissolved in tears after a shock loss to Janet Newberry.
Golfer Saydra Haynie came into Martina's life at this period. The two bought a house together in Dallas, and a fitter/trimmer Martina rehoned her game.
In 1978 and 1979 the titles came fast-with Martina dominating the early season indoor tour and winning Wimbledon back to back.
The tide of change swung back in 1980. A volatile relationship with the openly lesbian writer Rita Mae Brown took her focus off tennis. She ended the year without a slam, many predicting her days of #1 over for good. The downward spiral culminated in 1981 when Martina was outed by the press. Rather than melting under the scrutiny Martina started to pull her game together again. In a dramatic US Open Tracy Austin beat Martina 1-6 7-6 7-6. but it was the ex-Czech who won the heart of the crowd, who gave her a fice minute standing ovation. The year ended on a high note, as Navratilova won her first Australian Open in late 1981. She also had a new love, Nancy Lieberman, who directed her physical training, and coach Renee Richards for tactics.
From 1982 through 1986 Martina was virtually unbeatable, racking up 254 wins vs only 16 defeats, an astonishing 94% win rate. Mind you she was still playing doubles at full trot. Her 109 wins with Pam Shriver set a record for doubles.
In 1982, Navratilova went 90-3 and became the first female athlete to earn more than one million dollars in a year. Winning the French gave her the 3rd of 4 majors. A fitness routine with weights and a speial diet inspired awe and fear,of her muscles, with talk of a "bionic" woman who had an unfair advantage. It was all rubbish. The success was due to hard work. In this regard Martina was ahead of her time.
The only fly in the ointment was an inability to win the US Open. An aggressive Pam Shriver and a cat disease derailed her in the quarters.
1983 was almost beyond measure. She was 86-1, losing only to Kathy Horvath in the fourth round of the French Open. Even in this match she won more games than Horvath. This is the best year in women's tennis since Alice Marble went undefeated in 1940 and 1941. The highlight winning the US Open, finally "getting the monkey off my back."
"Martina gave the most stupendous demonstration of her court craft in 1984 when she won for the second time at Roland Garros, halting Evert 6-3 6-1 in the final. In soundly defeating the woman who ruled Roland Garros a record seven times Martina put on a dazzling display, revealing the full scope of her talent and leading many astute authorities to believe that no other woman had ever played the game at that level before. In fact, many of these experts wondered whether anyone would ever play the game as well as Martina did on that memorable Saturday afternoon" (Flink, p182).
Wins at Wimbledon and the French saw her sail into the Australian Open with a shot at the traditional Grand Slam. In a stunning reversal of fortune Helena Sukova ended her bid for the slam in a 1-6 6-3 7-5 upset of epic proportions.
Martina continued as #1 in 1985 and 1986, though her dominance was less total than in years past. Former #1 Chris Evert revived her rivalry with Navratilova in 1985 after losing 13 consecutive matches. This contrast in styles enraptured the public throughout the 1980s. Serve and volley vs baseliner, gay vs straight, emotional vs reserved were merely the most obvious differences. After their final encounter in 1988 the total stood at 43 wins to 37 defeats in Martina's favor. No head to head encounter in tennis comes close.
At her best the lefty "banana" serve opened up the court for a put away volley, especially on the add side. Her volleys were superb, especially the backhand volley. A booming forehand was complemented by a backhand slice or topspin depending on her tactics and confidence. This side could be exposed by the very best. Sudden dives in confident surfaced, as Ted Tinling once famously remarked (see quote above).
Sooner or later time was bound to catch up. In 1987 Steffi Graf swept to the #1 spot, losing only 2 matches all year. It just so happened that those 2 were to Navratilova, who won the Wimbledon and the US Open, 2 of the 3 biggest majors. Thus many experts still placed her at #1 despite her #2 computer ranking.
1988 belonged to Graf. For the first time since 1980 Martina failed to capture a major. Though Steffi Graf eclipsed her after their head to head series remained tied at 9 apiece, a testament to Martina's ability to expose the Graf backhand at times. Nonetheless Navratilova garnered only one more major after 1987. That crucial win was at Wimbledon in 1990; giving her 9 and breaking a tie with Helen Wills Moody.
She was only points away from a 10th Wimbledon in 1994. This was 19 years after her first major final-the 1975 French. The span between major finals is yet another record for women. At the end of 1994 she bade farewell to singles in an emotional farewell at Madison Square Garden.
Still itching to compete, she was back on court in doubles the next year. By 2002 she was back on tour, primarily in doubles. Martina's competitive zeal clearly lowered her percentage numbers. The flip side was picking up mixed doubles majors (3 in all) and basking in the love of fans new and old. The 2003 mixed in Australia gave her the "boxed set" of all 12 majors-tying Doris Hart and Margaret Court. In winning the 2006 US Open Mixed Doubles she became the oldest player to ever win a Grand Slam title as well as winning her last major 32 after the first in 1974. One month shy of 50, Martina the Magnificent hung up her racquet for good.
Off court her exploits generated plenty of press and buzz. "As one of the first openly gay sports figures, she has spent much of her career overcoming prejudices and stereotypes, giving up millions of dollars in endorsements and sponsorships as a result of her insistence on living a life of integrity and honesty. Since coming out in 1981, she has been an inspiring and vocal advocate for equal rights and a strong supporter of many charities benefiting the LGBT community. She has received numerous awards from many of the most influential organizations within the LGBT community." (Martina's website).
This has made her a heroine of many who view her as an iconic figure. This honest brashness also had and has detractors. Free to give vent to her emotions and opinion regardless of the consequences; that has been the cornerstone of this fascinating individual's personality.
When I see something that I don't like, I'm going to speak out because you can do that here [in America]. And again, I feel there are too many things happening that are taking our rights away."-Martina responding to critics
Grand Slam Record
- Singles Champion 1981, 1983, 1985
- Doubles Champion 1980, 1982-85, 1987-89
- Mixed Doubles Champion 2003
- Singles Champion 1982, 1984
- Doubles Champion 1975, 1982, 1984-88
- Mixed Doubles Champion 1974, 1985
- Singles Champion 1978-79, 1982-87, 1990
- Doubles Champion 1976, 1979, 1981-84, 1986
- Mixed Doubles Champion 1985, 1993, 1995, 2003
- Singles Champion 1983-84, 1986-87
- Doubles Champion 1977-78, 1980, 1983-84, 1986-87, 1989-90
- Mixed Doubles Champion 1985, 1987, 2006
1,442 wins –219 defeats (86.8%)
At least 167 titles
18 Grand Slams ( 3 Aussie, 2 French, 9 Wimbledon, 4 US Open)
7 times year end #1 (1978-79, 1982-1986)
747 wins- 143 defeats (83.9 %)
At least 177 titles
31 grand slam doubles
10 grand slam mixed doubles
- Blue, Adrianne (1995). Martina: The Lives and Times of Martina Navratilova. Carol Publishing Corporation.
- Howard, Johnette (2006). The Rivals: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova: Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship.
- Navratilova, Martina; Vecsey, George (1985). Martina. Knopf.
- Navratilova, Martina. Shape Youself. my 6 step diet and fitness plan to achieve the best shape of your life (2006)
- Navratilova, Martina; Nickles, Elizabeth. The Total Zone (1994) [a mystery set on tour. She has written 2 other books of fiction].
- Nelson, Judy; Faulkner, Sandra (1993). Love Match: Nelson Vs. Navratilova.
Martina Navratilova Admiration Thread(a Blast thread for fans) at: https://www.tennisforum.com/showthread.php?t=8368
Martina "the Magnificent" Navratilova Records and Photo Thread at: https://www.tennisforum.com/showthread.php?t=824457
[An exhaustive site run by Zummi, with complete match results]
[Her wiki biography]
Flink, Steve "Martina the Magnificent". by Steve Flink. 1995 World of Tennis, pages 180-184.