Martina Navratilova: Legend on the Tennis Court

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One of the all-time great tennis players is Martina Navratilova. The fiercely competitive, super-fit left-hander is one of the sport’s most recognizable names.

She was born in 1956 in Czechoslovakia and began to play tennis when she was 6. She showed great promise and eventually won her nation’s championships, when she was 15.

She turned pro in 1973, at age 16, and won her first professional tournament a year later. She defected to the United States in 1975 and became a U.S. citizen six years later.

After a few years of being frustratingly close to winning big tournaments, she dedicated herself to a new style of tennis. Many players at that time—like the woman who would become her biggest rival, Chris Evert—played a defensive game, preferring to rely on consistency and waiting for their opponents to make mistakes. Martina decided to become fast, fit, and aggressive. Her serve-and-volley style was a stark contrast to her major opponents, and her accuracy and consistency propelled her to the top of the women’s game. She was faster, fitter, and stronger. She was also a champion for the ages.

She won Wimbledon, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, in 1978, beating Evert. It was the first of nine singles championships at Wimbledon and the latest in a growing rivalry with the quiet Evert. (The two would play each other 80 times during a 15-year period, 60 times in tournament finals.) Navratilova improved her game even more, winning more matches and tournaments as the 1980s passed along. In 1984, she won a record 74 matches in a row.

Navratilova eventually won all four Grand Slam tournaments, claiming the U.S. Open four times, the Australian Open three times, and the French Open once. She was the runner-up in Grand Slam tournaments 14 times. Her total number of tournament victories is 167, a record for men and women.

She is a tremendous doubles player as well, owning 31 Grand Slam doubles titles (most with American Pam Shriver) and 9 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. Her doubles titles total 175.

She continues to play, even though she is now competing against opponents who weren’t born when she started as a professional.

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