No. 19: Martina Navratilova
Queen of the court
By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN.com
"Martina looked like she was a lot bigger than Chrissy, but the fact is it galled Martina that people didn't know that they both wore a size eight skirt," says broadcaster Mary Carillo about Martina Navratilova on ESPN's SportsCentury show (Friday, Sept. 24, 10:30 p.m. ET and Sunday, Sept. 26 at 8 a.m. ET).
Navratilova, whose nine Wimbledon singles championships are a record - for men and women - was voted No. 19 among North American athletes of the 20th century by SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel.
July 7, 1990 - Eight was not enough for Navratilova. Three years ago, she tied Helen Wills Moody's record of eight Wimbledon singles titles by winning her sixth straight. But Martina's dominance on Center Court ended when she was beaten in the last two finals by Steffi Graf.
|In 1982, Navratilova went 90-3 and became the first female athlete to earn more than one million dollars in a year.|
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."
Odds and ends Navratilova'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 seven, her father (who was divorced from Martina's mother) 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."
For most of the 1980s, Navratilova and Pam Shriver formed perhaps the greatest women's doubles team ever, winning 20 Grand Slam titles, including eight straight from Wimbledon in 1983 through the 1985 French Open. The duo won 79 tournaments and had a record 109-match winning streak between 1983 and 1985.
Martina was ranked No. 1 in singles for 156 consecutive weeks from June 14, 1982 through June 9, 1985.
She reached a record 23 consecutive finals from June 18, 1983 through Nov. 25, 1984.
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.
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.
In 1991, Navratilova had a messy breakup with Judy Nelson, her lover for seven years. Nelson sued for half of Martina's assets, citing a partnership agreement that was videotaped. They settled out-of-court, with the stipulation that the agreement wouldn't be made public.
Martina's final singles championship was at the Paris Indoors in February 1994. Her 167 singles titles are more than any man or woman. Closest to her is Evert at 157.
Navratilova holds three of the five longest match winning streaks in women's tennis at 74 (first), 58 (third) and 54 (fifth).
In winning 18 Grand Slam singles tournaments, Martina is tied for fourth with Evert behind Margaret Smith Court (24), Graf (22) and Moody (19).
Martina's career record in majors was 305-47: 46-7 at the Australian Open, 51-10 at the French, 119-13 at Wimbledon and 89-17 at the U.S. Open.
On the ballot for the first time, Navratilova is a sure thing to be elected in the year 2000 to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Navratilova once told her biographer she wanted to have a child with Wayne Gretzky because the gene combination would produce a great athlete.