Martina Navratilova

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Navratilova at the 2000 US Open
Navratilova at the 2000 US Open

Martina Navrátilová (b. October 18, 1956, in Řevnice, near Prague, Czechoslovakia) is a former World No. 1 woman tennis player. Originally from Czechoslovakia, she defected to the United States in 1975 and became a US citizen in 1981. During her career she won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and 40 Grand Slam doubles titles (31 women's doubles and 9 mixed doubles). She won the women's singles title at Wimbledon a record 9 times.

She was born Martina Šubertová in 1956. Her parents divorced when she was three, and in 1962 her mother Jana married Miroslav Navrátil, who became her first tennis coach. Martina then took the name of her stepfather (adding the feminine "ová").


Tennis career

In 1972 at the age of 15, Navrátilová won the Czechoslovakian national tennis championship. In 1973, aged 16, she turned professional. She won her first professional singles title in Orlando, Florida in 1974.

A left-handed serve-and-volleyer with superb volleying skills, Navrátilová raised the women’s game to new levels with her power and aggression. She struggled with her weight in the early years of her career (and was at one point unflatteringly labelled the “Great Wide Hope” by the journalist Bud Collins), but her determination to reach the top of the game saw her embark on a punishing routine to get herself into shape that eventually made extreme levels of fitness and conditioning a hallmark of her game.

Navrátilová finished runner-up at two of the Grand Slams in 1975 - losing in the final of the Australian Open to Evonne Goolagong and the French Open to Chris Evert. After losing to Evert in the semi-finals of that year's US Open, the 18-year-old Navratilova went to the offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York City and informed them that she wished to defect. Within a month, she received a Green Card.

Wax figure of Martina Navratilova at Prague wax museum
Wax figure of Martina Navratilova at Prague wax museum

Navrátilová won her first Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 1978, where she defeated Evert in three sets in the final and captured the World No. 1 ranking for the first time. She beat Evert in the final again to successfully defend her Wimbledon title in 1979.

In 1981 Navrátilová won her third Grand Slam singles title by defeating Evert in the final of the Australian Open, and also reached the final of the US Open where she lost a third-set tie-breaker to Tracy Austin. She won both Wimbledon and the French Open in 1982.

The mid-1980s were the most dominant period of Navrátilová’s career. After losing in the fourth round of the first Grand Slam event of 1983 - the French Open - she captured the year's three remaining Grand Slam titles (the Australian Open was held in December at that time). She then won the 1984 French Open to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously. This was extended to a record-equalling six consecutive Grand Slams following wins at Wimbledon at the US Open, and she entered the 1984 Australian Open with a chance of winning all four titles in the same year. However in the semi-finals, Helena Sukova ended a 74-match winning streak (a record for a professional) by beating Navrátilová 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Navrátilová did succeed in winning all four of the Grand Slam women’s doubles titles in 1984, partnering Pam Shriver. This was part of a record 109-match winning streak that the pair achieved between 1983 and 1985. (Navrátilová was ranked the World No. 1 doubles player for a period of over three years in the 1980s.)

In the three years from 1985 to 1987, Navrátilová reached the women’s singles final at all 11 Grand Slam tournaments she entered, winning six of them (and extending her run of triumphs at Wimbledon to a record six consecutive).

A new threat to Navrátilová’s dominance, in the form of the young German player Steffi Graf, emerged on the scene in 1987 when she beat Navrátilová in the final of the French Open. Navrátilová beat Graf in the 1987 Wimbledon and US Open finals (and at the US Open became only the third player in the Open Era to win the women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles at the same event). But Graf’s consistent play throughout 1987 nevertheless allowed her to depose Navrátilová as the World No. 1 before the end of the year. (Graf eventually went on to break Navrátilová’s records of 156 consecutive weeks and 331 total weeks as the World No. 1 singles player.) In 1988, Graf truly eclipsed Navratilova by winning all four Grand Slam titles, beating Navrátilová 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 in the Wimbledon final along the way. In 1989, Graf and Navrátilová met in the finals of the both Wimbledon and the US Open, with Graf winning both encounters in three sets.

But Navrátilová was to have one final Grand Slam singles triumph in 1990. Graf was knocked-out in the Wimbledon semi-finals that year by Zina Garrison. In the final, the 33-year old Navrátilová blew Garrison away 6-4, 6-1 to claim a record-breaking ninth Wimbledon singles crown. Though that was her last Grand Slam singles title, Navrátilová made two further major finals in the years that followed. In 1991, she lost in the US Open final to the new World No. 1 Monica Seles. And then in 1994, at the age of 37, Navrátilová reached the Wimbledon final one last time where she lost valiantly in three sets to Conchita Martinez.

In 1994, Navrátilová retired from the singles tour. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000.

Since 2000, Navrátilová has returned to the tour to play doubles events, while occasionally also playing singles. In 2003, she won the mixed doubles titles at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon partnering Leander Paes. This makes her the oldest ever Grand Slam champion (aged 46 years, 8 months). The Australian Open victory made her only the third player in history to complete a “boxed set” of Grand Slam titles by winning the women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles at all four Slams. The Wimbledon win allowed her to equal Billie Jean King’s record of 20 Wimbledon titles (in singles and double combined) and extended her overall number of Grand Slam titles to 58 (second only to Margaret Court, who won 62). Navratilova won a singles match at the first round of Wimbledon in 2004, aged 47 years and 8 months, to make her the oldest player to win a professional singles match in the Open Era.

Over the course of her career, Navrátilová won 167 top-level singles titles (more than any other player in the Open Era) and 175 doubles titles. Her most recent title came on August 21, 2005, at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, where she won the women's doubles event partnering Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

In 2005, TENNIS Magazine ranked her 2nd in its list of 40 Greatest Players of the TENNIS era (behind Pete Sampras).

The character Martina Zoana Mel Navratilova from the animé series Slayers was named after her.

Personal life

In 1981, shortly after being granted U.S. citizenship, Navrátilová took the bold step of coming out about her sexual orientation. In response to media speculation about her relationship with the author Rita Mae Brown, Navrátilová became one of the first major sports stars to announce that she was a lesbian.

Navrátilová’s openness about her sexuality almost certainly cost her millions in endorsement opportunities because of corporate homophobia.

From 1983 to 1991, Navrátilová had a long-term relationship with partner Judy Nelson. Their split in 1991 was messy and included a much-publicized legal wrangle.

When not playing tennis, Navrátilová is involved with various charities that benefit animal rights, underprivileged children and gay rights. She released an autobiography, simply entitled Martina, in 1985, and also co-wrote three mystery novels in the 1990s.

A vegetarian, Navrátilová has appeared in ad campaigns for PETA.

Navrátilová also made a humorous guest appearance on the gay-themed NBC sitcom Will & Grace, in a 2000 episode called "Lows In The Mid-Eighties", in which a flashback revealed she had been heterosexual until a 1985 relationship with Karen turned her gay.

Grand Slam singles finals

Wins (18)

Year     Championship            Opponent in Final          Score in Final
1978     Wimbledon               Chris Evert                2-6, 6-4, 7-5 
1979     Wimbledon               Chris Evert                6-4, 6-4       
1981     Australian Open         Chris Evert                6-7, 6-4, 7-5 
1982     French Open             Andrea Jaeger              7-6, 6-1 
1982     Wimbledon               Chris Evert                6-1, 3-6, 6-2 
1983     Wimbledon               Andrea Jaeger              6-0, 6-3 
1983     US Open                 Chris Evert                6-1, 6-3
1983     Australian Open         Kathy Jordan               6-2, 7-6
1984     French Open             Chris Evert                6-3, 6-1
1984     Wimbledon               Chris Evert                7-6, 6-2 
1984     US Open                 Chris Evert                4-6, 6-4, 6-4 
1985     Wimbledon               Chris Evert                4-6, 6-3, 6-2
1985     Australian Open         Chris Evert                6-2, 4-6, 6-2
1986     Wimbledon               Hana Mandlikova            7-6, 6-3 
1986     US Open                 Helena Sukova              6-3, 6-2 
1987     Wimbledon               Steffi Graf                7-5, 6-3 
1987     US Open                 Steffi Graf                7-6, 6-1 
1990     Wimbledon               Zina Garrison              6-4, 6-1

Runner-ups (14)

Year     Championship            Opponent in Final          Score in Final
1975     Australian Open         Evonne Goolagong           6-3, 6-2 
1975     French Open             Chris Evert                2-6, 6-2, 6-1
1981     US Open                 Tracy Austin               1-6, 7-6, 7-6 
1982     Australian Open         Chris Evert                6-3, 2-6, 6-3
1985     French Open             Chris Evert                6-3, 6-7, 7-5
1985     US Open                 Hana Mandlikova            7-6, 1-6, 7-6 
1986     French Open             Chris Evert                2-6, 6-3, 6-3
1987     Australian Open         Hana Mandlikova            7-5, 7-6 
1987     French Open             Steffi Graf                6-4, 4-6, 8-6
1988     Wimbledon               Steffi Graf                5-7, 6-2, 6-1
1989     Wimbledon               Steffi Graf                6-2, 6-7, 6-1
1989     US Open                 Steffi Graf                3-6, 7-5, 6-1
1991     US Open                 Monica Seles               7-6, 6-1
1994     Wimbledon               Conchita Martinez          6-4, 3-6, 6-3

Grand Slam doubles titles

Women's doubles titles (31)

Year     Championship            Partner
1975     French Open             Chris Evert
1976     Wimbledon               Chris Evert
1977     US Open                 Betty Stove
1978     US Open                 Billie Jean King
1979     Wimbledon               Billie Jean King
1980     Australian Open         Betsy Nagelsen
1980     US Open                 Billie Jean King
1981     Wimbledon               Pam Shriver
1982     Australian Open         Anne Smith
1982     French Open             Pam Shriver
1982     Wimbledon               Pam Shriver
1983     Australian Open         Pam Shriver
1983     Wimbledon               Pam Shriver
1983     US Open                 Pam Shriver
1984     Australian Open         Pam Shriver
1984     French Open             Pam Shriver
1984     Wimbledon               Pam Shriver
1984     US Open                 Pam Shriver
1985     Australian Open         Pam Shriver
1985     French Open             Pam Shriver
1986     French Open             Andrea Temesvari
1986     Wimbledon               Pam Shriver
1986     US Open                 Pam Shriver
1987     Australian Open         Pam Shriver
1987     French Open             Pam Shriver
1987     US Open                 Pam Shriver
1988     Australian Open         Pam Shriver
1988     French Open             Pam Shriver
1989     Australian Open         Pam Shriver
1989     US Open                 Hana Mandlikova
1990     US Open                 Gigi Fernandez

Mixed doubles titles (9)

Year     Championship            Partner
1974     French Open             Ivan Molina
1985     French Open             Heinz Gunthardt
1985     Wimbledon               Paul McNamee
1985     US Open                 Heinz Gunthardt
1987     US Open                 Emilio Sanchez
1993     Wimbledon               Mark Woodforde
1995     Wimbledon               Jonathan Stark
2003     Australian Open         Leander Paes
2003     Wimbledon               Leander Paes

External links

Women's Tennis Association | World No. 1's in Women's tennis
Tracy Austin | Jennifer Capriati | Kim Clijsters | Lindsay Davenport | Chris Evert | Steffi Graf | Justine Henin-Hardenne | Martina Hingis | Amélie Mauresmo | Martina Navratilova | Arantxa Sánchez Vicario | Monica Seles | Maria Sharapova | Serena Williams | Venus Williams
All-time leader Steffi Graf spent 377 weeks on top of the rankings.
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