Billie Jean King, the former no. 1 tennis player in the world, once praised Martina Navratilova as the greatest tennis player to have lived. The Czech born tennis player who is now retired from the game has also defended the same title in the Tennis Magazine for four decades. Martina was born on October 18, 1956. She also holds the record of having held the spot of World’s no. 1 tennis player for more than 200 weeks in singles as well as doubles. She is an 18 time Grand Slam holder and has won Wimbledon’s single matches nine times.
Martina adopted her surname after her athlete mother wedded her coach in 1962. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, her father was a ski teacher who killed himself when Martina was small. Her grandmother was also a high ranking tennis player of her time. She picked up the tennis racquet when she was seven and by the time she was 15, she had won a national championship in Czechoslovakia. When she was eighteen, she was made to renounce her citizenship when she demanded asylum in the US. Later she opted for an American green card which she received and became an official citizen of America in 1981. Shortly, she revealed that she was bisexual. It was also revealed that she was dating Nancy Lieberman. Later she made it clear that she is a lesbian. She is newly married to Julia Lemigova whom she has been dating for a long time. They were engaged on September 6, 2014 and tied the knot on December 15 later that year.
Martina who turned professional in 1975 has amassed a dominating number of tennis records throughout the course of her career which has lasted for a jaw dropping four decades. In the history of the sport, she is the only athlete to have been no.1 for more than 200 weeks in singles as well as doubles. She has held the Grand Slam title in singles 18 times and reached 12 finals at the Wimbledon, which include her nine year streak until 1990. She holds the record for the highest number of wins at Wimbledon and at the WTA Tour Championships as well. In 1984 with Pam Shriver she was able to score a consecutive win of 109 matches. One of her singles matches against tennis veteran Chris Evert in 1985 is considered to be the greatest woman’s tennis match in the history of the sport. Her last Wimbledon win was in 1990 against Zina Garrison and four years later decided to retire from the singles competitions. The International Tennis Hall of Fame honored her in 2000. She continued to play doubles matches throughout the first half of the 2000s only retiring completely in 2006. On July 6 of that year, she played the last match of her career at Wimbledon. In 2012, she was listed among the 100 greatest tennis players in female category in the second position, succeeded only by Steffi Graf.
Martina published her autobiography in 1985. The self titled book was co-written by George Vecsey of The New York Times. She has also authored tennis books like Tennis My Way. She is the co-author of three novels. The Total Zone was published in 1994 and Breaking Point in 1996. Killer Instinct was published in 1997. For her work in the promotion of gay rights, she was awarded with the National Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign in 2000. Martina has also worked for charities benefiting children and animal rights.
Martina Navartilova is arguably one of the greatest players of tennis to have walked the earth. With record setting wins in her career spanning over four decades, Martina is truly a deserving tennis icon of the world.