October 18, 1956
Born in: Prague, Czechoslovakia
Nationality: Czech and American
Career: Tennis Player
Martina Navratilova is one of the most successful women tennis players of the 20th century. She has won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women's doubles titles and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. Her 31 wins of the Grand Slam women's doubles titles has led her to create a record in tennis. Along with that, she has also won the women's singles title at Wimbledon 9 times, creating another record. Navratilova has been named as ‘Second Best Female Player of the 20th Century’ in Steve Flink’s book ‘The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century’.
Martina Navratilova was born as ‘Martina Šubertová’ on 18th October 1956, in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Her parents got divorced in 1959, when she was only three years old. A couple of years later, in 1962, her mother Jana married Miroslav Navrátil. Later, Martina took the name of her stepfather, adding the feminine suffix "ová", and became Martina Navrátilová. She had her first brush with tennis with Miroslav, who initially served as her coach also.
Martina Navrátilová started playing tennis under the tutelage of Miroslav. She won the Czechoslovakia National Tennis Championship in 1972, at the age of 15 only. She made her debut on the USLTA Professional Tour the next year only. However, it wasn’t till the year 1975 that she turned professional. In between this, in 1974, she won her first professional singles title in Orlando, Florida. She moved to United States the same year and initially, lived with Frances Dewey Wormser, former Vaudeville actress, and her husband, Morton Wormser, a major tennis enthusiast.
During the earlier years of her play, Navrátilová struggled with her weight problem, all too noticed by the media. However, with the help of Nancy Lieberman, a basketball player, she embarked on a punishing routine and got herself into shape. She reached the finals of two Grand Slam singles tournaments in 1975, but did not win either. She also lost to Evert in the semifinals of U.S. Open and following this, went to the Immigration and Naturalization Service office in New York City and informed them of her wish to defect from Czechoslovakia.
Navratilova won her first Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon, in the year 1978, when she was 22 years old. With this, she got the World No. 1 ranking for the first time in her career. In 1979, she defeated Evert and defended her Wimbledon title. The third Grand Slam singles title came to her by defeating Evert, again, in the final of the Australian Open, in 1981. The following year, she won Wimbledon as well as the French Open. With time, she started using Lieberman's exercise plan, along with graphite racquets, thereby becoming the most dominant player in women's tennis.
In the years 1982, 1983 and 1984, Navratilova lost only six singles matches. In the year 1984, she won French Open and became the winner of all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously. Following wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, she managed to extend this win to a record-equaling six. The same year, she also won all four Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, with Pam Shriver. The pair went on to win 109 matches, from 1983 to 1985. Between 1985 and 1987, Navratilova reached the women’s singles final at all 11 Grand Slam tournaments and won six of them.
In the late 1980s, 17-year old Steffi Graf emerged as a strong competitor for Navratilova, beating the latter in the final of the French Open. However, Navratilova beat Graf in the 1987 Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals. With this, she became only the third player in the open era to win the women’s singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles, all at the same event. However, by the end of 1987, Graf managed to obtain the World No. 1 position. The following year, she again beat Navratilova and won all four Grand Slam singles titles. The latter again lost to her in the 1989 finals of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
In 1990, Navratilova beat Garrison in Wimbledon finals and created the record of having nine Wimbledon singles crown. After losing two major finals, U.S. Open in 1991 and Wimbledon final in 1994, she retired from the singles tour. In 2000, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. However, she returned to play doubles events and in 2003, won the mixed doubles titles at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, with Leander Paes. With this, she became the ‘Oldest Ever Grand Slam Champion’ and 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.
In 2004, Navratilova won a singles match in straight sets at the first round of Wimbledon. Aged 47 years and 8 months at the time of her win, she became the ‘oldest player to win a professional singles match’ in the open era. In July 2006, she announced that she would play her last Wimbledon in 2006 and by the end of the 2006 season; she would retire from the doubles play also. She played her last Wimbledon match on 6th July 2006. However, she won the mixed doubles title; her 41st Grand Slam doubles title, at the 2006 U.S. Open, with Bob Bryan. The only Grand Slam mixed doubles title that eluded her on her return was the French Open.
Navratilova has admitted in her autobiography, ‘Being Myself’, that in her teenage, she had romantic crushes on teachers of both sexes. With time, she found herself strongly attracted to other female tennis players. However, it was only when she was 18 years old that she had her first same-sex relationship and realized that her attractions had a sexual dimension. Her parents, especially her father, were very disturbed by the revelation. It was in the year 1981, shortly after being granted US citizenship, that Navratilova publicly accepted her sexual orientation.
She lost her Czech citizenship after defecting to the US, at the age of eighteen. It was only on January 9, 2008, she had her Czech citizenship restored, especially on request. Navratilova had a long-term relationship with partner Judy Nelson, which lasted from 1983 to 1991. They separated in 1991, involving a much-publicized legal squabble. Navratilova released an autobiography, simply entitled Martina, in 1985 and co-wrote three mystery novels in the 1990s. In 2000, she made an amusing guest appearance on the gay-themed NBC sitcom ‘Will & Grace’.
- She is one of the just three women to have accomplished a career Grand Slam in singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles (called the Grand Slam "boxed set").
- She holds the open era record for most singles titles (167) and doubles titles (177).
- She recorded the longest winning streak in tennis history (74 consecutive matches).
- She has three of the six longest winning streaks in women's tennis history.
- She reached 11 consecutive Grand Slam singles finals, second only to Steffi Graf’s thirteen.
- She equals Billie Jean King’s record of 20 Wimbledon titles (in singles women's doubles, and mixed doubles combined)
- She has the second highest number of Grand Slam titles (58), next to Margaret Court’s 62.
- She has won more top-level singles titles (167) than any other player in the Open Era.
- She has won the most career singles match win (total of 1,442) during the open era.
- 18 Grand Slam singles titles (9 at Wimbledon, 4 at the U.S. Open, 3 at the Australian Open, and 2 at the French Open)
- 31 Grand Slam women's doubles titles (an all-time record)
- 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles
- Selected by ‘Tennis’ magazine as the ‘Greatest Female Tennis Player for the years 1965 through 2005’
- Ranked by ESPN.com as 19th on the list of the ‘20th Century's Hundred Greatest North American Athletes’