Martina was alone on top
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Navratilova owned Wimbledon's Center Court
By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN.com
July 7, 1990 - Eight was not enough for Martina Navratilova. Three years ago, she tied Helen Wills Moody's record of eight Wimbledon singles titles by winning her sixth straight. But Navratilova's dominance on center court ended when she was beaten in the last two finals by Steffi Graf.
Today, Navratilova made history when she became the first player to win nine Wimbledons. Hitting 32 winners and committing just nine unforced errors, Navratilova rolled to a 6-4, 6-1 victory in the final over Zina Garrison, who had upset Graf in the semis.
"I knew I had one more in me," said the 33-year-old Navratilova. "There were no glitches this time. Everything came up nines." The victory improved her Wimbledon singles record to 99-9.
A win over Garrison was not surprising for Navratilova, now 28-1 over her 26-year-old opponent. "She was a step ahead of me the whole time," said Garrison, significant praise from the woman generally considered to be the quickest on the women's tour. "I can't comprehend even one title. Nine is just amazing. She really believes this is her court and that no one can take it away from her."
Navratilova said she hoped to meet the woman she had shared the record with some day. "I was in Carmel [where Helen Roark, formerly Moody, lives in California] a few years ago and I had the itch just to drive by her home, but I didn't want to invade her privacy," the queen of Wimbledon said. "I've always wanted to meet her, not just because I've broken her record."
Odds 'n' EndsNavratilova's quest for a 10th Wimbledon singles title ended in 1994, when she lost a three-set final to Conchita Martinez. After the match, Navratilova plucked a blade of grass to put into the pages of her memory book.
Navratilova won her first eight Wimbledon finals, including five over Chris Evert. She was 9-3 overall in finals.
At eight, while everybody else was hitting groundstrokes, Martina already was rushing to the net. She thinks the style of play was in her genes.
She was small for her age, second shortest in a class of 30 in the third grade in Czechoslovakia, but in the eighth grade she shot up.
At seven, her father Mirek (who was divorced from Martina's mother Jana) stopped visiting her. Three years later, she was told he had died. Not until years later did she learn that he had committed suicide.
Martina teamed with Evert to win the 1975 French Open and 1976 Wimbledon doubles titles.
After moving to America in the mid-seventies, Navratilova became a spendthrift. One prized possession was a silver Mercedes with the license plate x-CZECH.
In 1979, Navratilova made a guest appearance as a nurse on "All My Children."
Navratilova lost just 19 games in seven matches in winning her first U.S. Open, in her 11th try, in 1983.
For most of the 1980s, Navratilova and Pam Shriver formed perhaps the greatest women's doubles team, winning 20 Grand Slam titles. The duo won 79 tournaments and had a record 109-match winning streak between 1983 and 1985.
Navratilova once told Barbara Walters on television that she enjoyed going to bed with both men and women, but preferred waking up with a woman.
When a male sportswriter once asked, "Martina, are you still a lesbian?" she replied, "Are you still the alternative?"
As Navratilova got older, she said she became a nervous wreck before a big match. "Chris and I agree it got worse," she said. "At 18, we were cooler."
Martina was ranked No. 1 for 331 weeks: July 10, 1978-Jan. 13, 1979; Jan. 28-Feb. 24, 1979; April 16-June 24, 1979; Sept. 10, 1979-April 6, 1980; April 21-June 30, 1980; May 3-16, 1982; June 14, 1982-June 9, 1985; Oct. 14-27, 1985; and Nov. 25, 1985-Aug. 16, 1987.
In winning 18 Grand Slam singles tournaments (the same number as Evert), Martina's career record in majors was 306-47: 46-7 at the Australian Open, 52-10 at the French, 119-13 at Wimbledon and 89-17 at the U.S. Open.
In 1986, Martina was warmly welcomed back by her countrymen when she returned to Czechoslovakia to play in the Federation Cup. The fans roared Nav-ROT-ee-lo-va, the way they pronounce it there. She helped the U.S. win the Cup.
In 1991, Navratilova had a messy breakup with Judy Nelson, her lover for seven years. Nelson sued for half of Martina's assets gained after they began their relationship, citing a partnership agreement that was taped. They settled out-of-court, with the stipulation that the agreement wouldn't be made public.
In winning her first mixed doubles Australian Open championship in 2003,
Navratilova -- at 46 years and three months -- became the oldest player to
capture a Grand Slam title.
That victory also completed an impressive cycle for Navratilova -- at least
one title in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at all four majors.
When Navratilova won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon in 2003, it gave her 20 championships there, tying her with Billie Jean King for most Wimbledon titles.
Navratilova told her biographer she wanted to have a child with Wayne Gretzky because the gene combination would produce a great athlete.
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