By Yemi Babalola Lagos Nigeria
The amazon we would be looking at this week is Martina Navratilova, she was born Martina Šubertová on October 18, 1956 and she is a Czech and American retired tennis player and coach. Martina was one of the world’s top tennis players in the 1970s and ’80s. Navratilova was born Martina Šubertová in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
Navratilova’s parents divorced when she was three, and her mother, an accomplished gymnast, tennis player, and ski instructor, moved the family to Řevnice. 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 suffix “ová”), which saw her being called Martina Navrátilová.
Navratilova began to hit a tennis ball off a cement wall at age 4 and started to play tennis regularly at the age of 7. In 1972, at the age of 15, Navratilova won the Czechoslovakia national tennis championship. In 1973, aged 16, she made her debut on the United States Lawn Tennis Association professional tour but did not turn professional until 1975.
Perhaps most renowned for her mastery of fast low-bouncing grass, her best early showing at majors was on the red clay at the French Open, where she would go on to reach the final 6 times. In 1973, she made the quarterfinals where she lost 6-7 4-6 to Evonne Goolagong.
This began her rise and her career in tennis took off from 1978 at the Wimbledon, where she won her first major singles title after defeated Evert in three sets in the final and captured the World No. 1 ranking for the first time on the WTA computer, a position she held until Evert took it back in January 1979.
Navratilova successfully defended her Wimbledon title in 1979, again beating Evert in the final in straight sets, and earned the World No. 1 ranking at the end of the year for the first time. Just before Wimbledon in 1979, Navratilova and Evert played possibly the highest scoring women’s professional match ever in the Eastbourne final, which Evert edged 7–5, 5–7, 13-11 after facing match points herself.
Between 1980 and the early parts of 1981 Martina suffered losses on the court and had to employ the services of Nancy Lieberman to help improve fitness and toughen her mental approach on the court.
In 1981, Navratilova won her third major singles title by defeating Evert in the final of the Australian Open. Navratilova also defeated Evert to reach the final of the US Open, where she lost a third set tiebreak to Tracy Austin. Navratilova won both Wimbledon and the French Open in 1982, and would go on to lose only six matches from 1982 to 1984.
While Martina was edging towards the peak of her career in early 1980’s, she played in what sport lovers considered to be perhaps the best woman’s match of all time, the French Open final against Chris Evert. Navratilova battled back from 3–6, 2–4 down to 5-5 all in the third set, before Evert hit a winning backhand passing shot on match point to defeat Navratilova 6–3, 6–7(4), 7–5. This was a major turnaround for Evert, who was so outmatched the year earlier in the final, even that Bud Collins remarked as a TV commentator that the sport needed to create a higher league for Navratilova to compete in.
Speaking about the rivalry at that period it was clearly a race between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. In outdoor matches against Evert, Navratilova led 10-5 on grass and 9-7 on hardcourts, while Evert was up 11-3 on clay and clearly show Martina was not so good on clay surface.
While on indoor courts, Navratilova had a decisive 21–14 lead. At the end of what is widely regarded as the greatest rivalry in women’s tennis, Navratilova led Evert 43–37 in total matches, 14–8 in Grand Slams and 10–4 in Grand Slam finals.
In all, Martina Navratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles championships and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles. Her greatest success came at Wimbledon, where she advanced to 12 singles finals, winning nine titles.
Navratilova was World No. 1 for a total of 332 weeks in singles, and a record 237 weeks in doubles, making her the only player in history to have held the top spot in both singles and doubles for over 200 weeks. She was year-end singles No. 1 seven times, including a record five consecutive years, as well as year-end doubles No. 1 five times, including three consecutive years during which she held the ranking for the entire year.
Navratilova holds the records for most singles titles (167) and for most doubles titles (177) in the open era. Her record as No.1 in singles (1982–86) is the most dominant in professional tennis. Over five consecutive seasons, she won 428 of 442 singles matches
Navratilova recorded the longest winning streak in the open era (74 consecutive matches) and three of the six longest winning streaks. Navratilova is one of just three women ever to have accomplished a Career Grand Slam in singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles (called the Grand Slam “boxed set”), a distinction she shares with Margaret Court and Doris Hart. Navratilova and Billie Jean King each won 20 Wimbledon titles, an all-time record.
Navratilova retired from singles play in 1994, but continued to play in doubles matches. In 2003, she won the mixed doubles championship at Wimbledon. Three years later, she repeated the accomplishment with a win at the U.S. Open.
In April 2010, Navratilova revealed that she had breast cancer. After six months of treatment, she became cancer-free.
In retirement, Navratilova hasn’t completely stayed out of the public eye. In March 2012, she made her debut on Dancing with the Stars. She’s also continued to remain active. Navratilova still regularly plays tennis and competes in triathlons. Additionally, she has served as a fitness ambassador for the American Association of Retired Persons.
She and Serena Williams are the only Open Era players to have won six major singles crowns without the loss of a set. Navratilova, Margaret Court and Maureen Connolly share the record for the most consecutive major singles titles (six). Navratilova reached 11 consecutive major singles finals, second all-time to Steffi Graf’s 13, and is the only woman ever to reach 19 consecutive major semi-finals. Navratilova also won the season-ending WTA Tour Championships for top ranked players a record eight times and made the finals a record 14 times. She is the only person of either sex to have won eight different tournaments at least seven times. She was ranked in the world’s top 10 in singles for a record 20 consecutive years (1975-1994), a span which included 19 years in the top 5, 15 years in the top 3, and 7 years as the world No.1 ranked singles player. Navratilova is regarded by some to be the greatest female tennis player of all time.
In women’s doubles, Navratilova and Pam Shriver won 109 consecutive matches and won all four major titles—the Grand Slam—in 1984. The pair set an all-time record of 79 titles together and tied Louise Brough Clapp’s and Margaret Osborne duPont’s record of 20 major women’s doubles titles as a team. Navratilova also won the WTA Tour Championships doubles title a record 11 times. She is one of only five tennis players all-time to win a multiple slam set in two disciplines, matching Margaret Court, Roy Emerson, Frank Sedgman and Serena Williams. Navratilova took her last major title in 2006, winning the mixed doubles crown at the 2006 US Open, just short of her 50th birthday — 32 years after her first Grand Slam title in 1974.
Originally from Czechoslovakia, she was stripped of her citizenship when, in 1975 at the age of 18, she asked the United States for political asylum and was granted temporary residency. At the time, Navratilova was told by the Czechoslovak Sports Federation that she was becoming too Americanized and that she should go back to school and make tennis secondary. Navratilova became a US citizen in 1981, and on January 9, 2008, she acquired Czech citizenship. She stated she has not renounced her U.S. citizenship nor does she plan to do so and that acquiring her Czech citizenship was not politically motivated.
In 2005, Tennis magazine selected her as the greatest female tennis player for the years 1965 through 2005.