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Martina Navratilova

Prominence, Rivalry With Evert

Navratilova won her first Grand Slam event in 1978, at Wimbledon, the first of nine titles at Centre Court. Still overweight, she overcame Evert 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. Her final one, in 1990, broke the record of eight held by Helen Wills. "Navratilova made extreme fitness her trademark in chasing and overcoming Evert, who became her good friend," Collins wrote in Bud Collins' Modern Encyclopedia of Tennis. Navratilova overcame a 21-4 deficit in matches against Evert to end up 43-37 against her rival. She also eclipsed Evert's record of 157 consecutive pro singles tournament victories. No. 158 came against Jana Novotna, against two match points.


1956 Born October 18 in Prague, Czechoslovakia
1973 First visited United States
1975 Defected to United States during U.S. Open.
1981 Became U.S. citizen; goes public about lesbian, bisexual lifestyle
1986 Returned to Czechoslovakia as member of winning U.S. Federation Cup team
1990 Retired from active singles play in November

Navratilova won Wimbledon six straight years, from 1982-87. In other Grand Slams, she took four U.S. Opens, three Australian Opens and two French Opens. It took 11 tries for Navratilova to take the U.S. Open. She finally did so in 1983, beating Evert. The closest she came to a single-season Grand Slam came in 1983 and 1984. She went 86-1 throughout 1983, falling only to Kathy Horvath in the fourth round of the French Open. In 1984, Helena Sukova beat her in the final Grand Slam, the Australian.

Navratilova's rivalry with Chris Evert became a matter of legend among tennis afficionados. "If you tried to make the perfect rivalry … we were it," Navratilova said in a 1998 Washington Post interview about the Evert matches. "Most of the time, one of us was number one in the world, the other one was number two." Off court, however the two maintained a cordial relationship. Navratilova, in fact, introduced Evert to former Olympic skier Andy Mill, who married Evert in 1988. The two tennis greats even played as doubles partners for a while, but the competition to be No. 1 in singles got to be too much.

Since 1973, Navratilova has played in the most singles tournament (380) and matches (1,650), won the most titles (167) and sporting a won-loss record of 1,438-212. Her prize money, $20.3 million, ranks her only behind men's players Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras. "Her doubles feats, attesting to a grandeur of completeness, were as sparkling," Collins wrote. She won 31 women's doubles and seven mixed doubles titles.

Navratilova's landmark 1990 Wimbledon win, over Zina Garrison in the final, was her last Grand Slam victory. She was runner-up to Monica Seles at the U.S. Open in 1991 and to Conchita Martinez at Wimbledon in 1994, her final year. She did return to Wimbledon in 1995 to capture the mixed doubles title with Jonathan Stark.

Her singles finale came at the season-ending WTA Championships in New York; she dropped her only match, 6-4, 6-2 to Gabriela Sabatini. "Thousands cheered and wept saying goodbye and thanks for the memories," Collins wrote. "She had done so much in New York, winning that prime championship eight times in singles (five times runner-up), 10 times in doubles, plus four singles and 11 doubles titles across the East River at the U.S. Open." Her last singles final came in the previous tournament, in Oakland, when she dropped a lengthy, three-set match to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

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